Tag Archives: violence against women

Death by Stoning

By: Alexandra Kinias –

b7ff0f307bc8337Stoning is an ancient practice that was used as punishment for crimes that varied from adultery to murder, in cultures and religions that predated Islam. Greeks used stoning to punish prostitutes, adulterers and murderers. It is also documented in the Jewish Tradition via the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud, or Jewish Oral Law. In the Old Testament of the Bible, stoning is prescribed a method of execution for crimes such as murder, blasphemy or apostasy. [1] Although there is no mention of stoning in the Quran, the practice has since grown to be associated with Islam and Muslim culture. Muslim clerics argue over the legality of stoning in Islam and there is “no consensus within the global Muslim community over the validity of the practice as “Islamic Law.” Stoning as a punishment for adultery reappeared and instated as governing laws of some countries in the 20th century with the rise and spread of political Islam.

In Pakistan, President Muhammad Zia –ul-Haq who ruled from (1977-1988) enforced Nizam-e-Mustafa (“Rule of the prophet” or Islamic System, i.e. establishing an Islamic state and sharia law [2]. He replaced many clause of the Pakistani Penal Code with sharia law, and the stoning to death as a punishment for adultery was instated.

On April 30, 2014, Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, announced in a press conference the implementation of tough Islamic criminal punishments in his sultanate that includes flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning for adultery and sodomy. [3] [4]

Unlike beheading, where the victim’s life ends by a stroke of a sword, stoning is a slow and painful death. It violates international human rights standards [5] and is prohibited by international laws and condemned by human and women rights groups as a form of cruel, inhuman, degrading and torturous punishments [6]. Stoning is also another example of discrimination against women, who represent the vast majority of its victims, even though both genders should be punished equally for the same crime.

Stoning, rajm in Arabic, is carried out by a group of people (multiple executioners’ vs one executioner for beheading) by hurling stones at the victim, so not one individual is identified as the killer or blamed for it. , Today, no believers of any faith, but Islam practice stoning, and it is only carried out in lands where Sharia rules, as a punishment for adultery by married people (zina), thus it became a stigma attached to Islam and Muslim culture and another layer of abuse and control over women in several Islamic societies.

Stoning is not legal in all Muslim countries though. In some countries like Mauritania and Qatar, stoning has never been used although it remains legal. In the UAE, several people were convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning, but the punishment was never carried out [7] [8] [9] mostly because of human rights pressures backed by UN resolutions for a moratorium on the use of death punishment [10] [11], in general, and because stoning in particular is a politically sensitive issues.

Stoning is also the law and legal punishment for adultery in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and the 12 Muslim majority states of Northern Nigeria. In 2012, Mali witnessed its first case of stoning after the Islamist militants affiliated to Al Qaeda took control of the northern part of the country and implemented the sharia law. The couple accused of adultery were forced into holes about four feet deep, with their heads protruding, and then stoned to death [12].

On the other hand, in war torn countries and in conflict areas, like Afghanistan and Iraq where stoning was outlawed, tribal leaders, militants and warlords still enforce their own laws. They extra-judicially try, convict and sentence women within their control to death by stoning.

Disgracefully, the most prominent reason for the stoning women today is the influence of the stagnant societies they are living in, which harbor mentalities that have stopped evolving over the centuries. In this time and age, there is no excuse for women to suffer under the name of any religion or culture, but the gruesome reality is they still do. Women in these societies live in fear and despair. They are treated with violence. Their safety is at risk, with the threat of conviction looming over their heads for simply being born females. They are stripped from their basic human rights and their fates are still determined and controlled by men.

Stoning to death in these cultures is a punishment believed to salvage, protect and restore the honor of a man, and suppression of women a proof of manhood.  How can we expect women to stand fair trials in these communities, when the governing laws, inherited from medieval practices, already discriminate against them?

Women activists have launched an international campaign to ban stoning and are putting pressure on the UN to adopt a resolution to eradicate this barbaric practice. Their efforts have not been successful yet, but they are not giving up. Unfortunately, adopting a resolution to ban the practice is not going to eradicate it because the cultures that implement it are following their own laws. It has to first be eradicated from the mentalities of those who practice it since religious laws and tribal laws they follow are more powerful than the UN resolutions.

Unfortunately, no tangible results will be achieved in the near future in societies where women’s lives are dispensable and where they are treated as commodities; sold, used as bargaining chips to settle disputes and pay debts. In these societies, men should not be expected to change their behaviors and beliefs because of a UN resolution.

References:
[1] Frequently Asked Questions about Stoning, Violence is Not Our Culture, http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/faq_stoning

[2] Kepel, Gilles (2002). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (2006 ed.). I.B.Tauris. pp. 100–101. https://books.google.com/books?id=OLvTNk75hUoC&pg=PA100&dq=Nizam-e-Mustafa+sharia&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VMqBVLDYCsSoyAS8yYKYBw&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Nizam-e-Mustafa%20sharia&f=false

[3] Sultan of Brunei announces Syariah law to start Thursday http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2014/04/30/brunei-syariah-start-thursday/

[4] Sultan of Brunei unveils strict sharia penal code
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/sultan-brunei-sharia-penal-code-flogging-death-stoning

[5] Human Rights Watch: Sudan: Ban Death by Stoning, May 31, 2012
https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/31/sudan-ban-death-stoning

[6] Amnesty International: Afghanistan: Reject stoning, flogging, amputation and other Taliban-era punishments, 26 November 2013
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/11/afghanistan-reject-stoning-flogging-amputation-and-other-taliban-era-punishments/

[7] Expat faces death by stoning after admitting in court to cheating on husband, May 6, 2014,  https://7days.ae/expat-faces-death-stoning-admitting-court-cheating-husband

[8] Amnesty International- UAE: Death by stoning/ flogging, 12 June 2006, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE25/005/2006/en/

[9] Two women sentenced to death for adultery, September 25, 2013
http://www.khaleejtimes.com/article/20130925/ARTICLE/309259957/1011

[10] General Assembly Adopts Landmark Text Calling for Moratorium on Death Penalty, 18 December 2007, http://www.un.org/press/en/2007/ga10678.doc.htm

[11]  General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting, 19 December 2016 https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/ga11879.doc.htm

[12] Islamists in North Mali Stone Couple to Death, By Adam Nossiter, July 30, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/world/africa/couple-stoned-to-death-by-islamists-in-mali.html

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Women in Morocco Fight Domestic Violence with Makeup

Tuesday January 3, 2017
By Alexandra Kinias

583c53551a00002500cca0a9On November 23, 2016, two days prior to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the national Moroccan television channel 2M aired a tutorial on the morning women show Sabaheyat on how to conceal domestic violence bruises with makeup.  “Today we will be approaching a painful and shameful topic, but on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we’ll show you how to use makeup to conceal the bruises. It’s not a subject we want to talk about, but unfortunately that what goes on,” said makeup artist Lilia Mouline.

violence-cover-up-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8After charming the viewers with her smile, Mouline introduced a model with bruised face, and assured the audience that her bruises are cinematic makeup. To camouflage the model’s fake bruises, she first suggested applying a green corrector to cover the redness, advising not to press too hard as the skin should still be sensitive from the trauma. She then applied an orange corrector to cover the purple bruises, and went on to conceal the face with yellow foundation. “If you use the white one [foundation], your red punch marks will always show.” She said.

While applying more layers of liquid foundation, she recommended the cosmetic brand names she used and where to find them, and hoped that she had given women “the solution they need to proceed with their daily lives, under the circumstances.”

The video went viral and ignited extreme controversy. The national television station 2M went under-fire. With the soaring rates of domestic violence in Morocco and the incompetence of the government to battle it, the featured segment raised angry roars from women activists fighting for the cause.  The show was denounced on social media for sending out a message to accept and to cope with domestic violence rather than condemning it. Women activists accused the channel of encouraging the perpetrators to proceed with their abuse, since their actions can be concealed, instead of demanding to punish them.

According to Human’s Rights Watch, a national  survey [1] of women aged 18 to 65 by the Moroccan High Commission for Planning found that in 2009 nearly two-thirds – 62.8 percent – had experienced physical, psychological, sexual, or economic violence. Of the sample interviewed, 55 percent reported “conjugal” violence and 13.5 percent reported “familial” violence. Only 3 percent of those who had experienced conjugal violence had reported it to the authorities.

domestic-violence-morocco-tvAfter the harsh criticism, and the circulation of an online petition [2] calling for severe actions against the morning show, the television channel issued an apology statement on its Facebook page [3] denouncing the segment and their “error in judgement in view of the sensitivity and the gravity of the subject of violence against women.”  The statement admitted that it was “completely inappropriate” and the video [4] was removed off its website.

morroco-759Mouline denied the accusation that the program encourages domestic violence.  “We are here to provide solutions to these women who, for a period of two to three weeks, are putting their social life aside while their wounds heal,” she explained in an interview [5] with the Moroccan news website and radio, yabiladi.com. “These women have already been subjected to moral humiliation and do not need to also have others looking at them. Makeup allows women to continue to live normally while waiting for justice.”

In Morocco, however, domestic violence is not a crime, and with no laws to criminalize the act and punish the perpetrators, there is no justice brought for these women. Not only that, but abused women are sent back by their families to continue living with their abusers.

The Moroccan government started discussions over combating violence against women in 2006, and a bill was finally drafted in 2013, but it has not been effective yet. The bill was a disappointment to women activists and was criticized by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as “it defines violence against women in a broad category, but lacks a strong definition to specifically address domestic violence. It also does not criminalize marital rape.” [6]

In a letter [7] sent to the government on February 2016, HRW expressed their concern with the bill and urged the Moroccan government to ‘strengthen’ the law to protect the victims by defining “domestic violence” to include physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence and to state that marital rape is a crime.

According to testimonials of domestic violence survivors to HRW, law enforcement in Morocco – when dealing with violence against women – is inadequate, almost non-existent. According to HRW report, women said that “police officers refused to record their statements, failed to investigate, and refused to arrest domestic abuse suspects even after prosecutors ordered them to. In some cases, police did nothing more than tell victims to return to their abusers.”  [8] Many domestic violence victims are unable to leave their abusive husbands for lack of women shelters and finical needs.

Women in Morocco live in a culture where domestic violence dominates the lives of many. Bruised faces are a fact of their life, as the makeup artist bluntly explained it. Airing the segment on how conceal domestic violence on the occasion of the International Day to Eliminate Violence was certainly a miscalculated act that demonstrated poor judgment from the producers. However, with the incompetence of the government to take action, what other choices women are left with to “proceed with their lives” other than follow the advice of makeup artists and conceal their bruises with makeup.

References:

1- National survey on domestic violence by the Moroccan High Commission for Planning: http://www.hcp.ma/downloads/Violence-a-l-egard-des-femmes_t13077.html

2- Petition against the Moroccan channel:
https://www.change.org/p/haca-don-t-cover-domestic-violence-with-makeup?recruiter=21569190&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=fb_send_dialog

3- M2 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/2m.officiel/?ref=nf

4- Video aired by Moroccan TV to show how to hide domestic abuse by using make up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPMJ8msKb5o

5- Lilia Mouline interview with yabaladi.com news: http://www.yabiladi.com/articles/details/48752/combattre-violence-faite-femmes-avec.html

6- HRW letter to Moroccan government:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/15/letter-human-rights-watch-government-morocco-domestic-violence-law-reforms

7-Ibid

8- Morocco: Tepid Response on Domestic Violence:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/15/morocco-tepid-response-domestic-violence

 

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Morality Police: Institutional Violence vs. Women

— By: Alexandra Kinias —

Clerics with long bushy beards and fermented brains obsessed with female sexuality, I envision them gathering in dark caves in remote mountain terrains. From behind thick clouds of opium smoke, they fantasize over the memory of a woman’s scent that lingered in an empty elevator long after she had disembarked, or at a sight of toes in summer sandals seen from under a long kaftan. As they acknowledge the evilness of women’s sexuality, they draft fatwas to relegate them from the ranks of humans to a level above their domestic animals, to discipline and control them.

Beating women publicly first caught international attention after the rise of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. They were caught on cameras whipping and beating women who walked in the streets unaccompanied by male guardians or not covered from head to toe in a burqa. Women with uncovered ankles were also beaten and so were those whose heels clicked the ground as they walked.

Women and human rights organizations attacked the Taliban’s atrocities committed against women, unaware of or choosing to ignore the fact that these laws were instituted in Afghanistan by Burhanuddin Rabbani’s Islamic government when it came to power in 1992, four years before the rise of the Taliban to power. But for political reasons atrocities committed against women then were not a subject of interest to anyone to discuss.

Taliban_beating_woman_in_public_RAWA

The Taliban

Rabbani’s government hadn’t invented these rules either. They were borrowed from the Saudi model of the Committee for the promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPCPV), which is commonly known as religious police. Formed in 1940 to enforce and ensure the implementation of the sharia law in the Saudi society. Members of the CPCPV known in Saudi as Mutawee, patrol the streets, to enforce the strict dress code on women and ensure gender segregation.

Until 2007, they were armed with wooden canes to beat the offenders, including foreigners working in Saudi Arabia who didn’t adhere to the laws of the land. They were also empowered to detain offenders. After multiple videos went viral on how they exploited their power, the Saudi council of ministers issued a regulation in 2016 that stripped them from it. They still roam the streets on the watch for women who are not covering their heads or mingling with non-relative men, but they have no power to arrest, only to report such incidents to the regular police for action.

SAUDI-POLICE

Morality Police following a women in Saudi Arabia

In Pakistan, the leader of the Pakistani Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Mohammed Khan Sheerani, condemned a women’s protection law passed by the Punjab government in March 2015 and declared it un-Islamic. The Women’s Protection Act was drafted to protect and defend victims of domestic violence, encourages them to report abuse, and assist them with legal protection from their perpetrators. Even though the act doesn’t criminalize domestic violence, yet it was attacked by all religious groups in Pakistan that requested the Punjab province to withdraw the law. And in return, the CII proposed a controversial bill that permits husbands to ‘lightly’ beat their wives with a small stick, to punish and discipline them if they disobey their husbands’ orders.

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Pakistan CII

CII was formed in 1961 with a 20-member constitutional body that include at least two judges and members with a minimum of 15 years’ experience in Islamic research and teachings, to advise the government on religious aspects of the law and society – but its recommendations are not binding or legally enforced. While CII proposals are not taken seriously by leaders when they intervene with political and financial decisions, they influence the government’s decisions in matters concerning family and social issues. The ridiculous bill that encouraged violence against women was shunned by the media and women’s rights activists in Pakistan, yet its proposal was sufficient enough to squirt more venom against women into the minds of millions of the CII followers.

Sudan’s Public Order Police, notorious for its aggression and brutality was formed in 1993, after the rise of Omar Bashir’s Islamic government to power, to enforce the implementation of Sharia law. POP is empowered to arrest violators of the code of conduct, which includes women walking in public without head cover or wearing pants. Suspects are arrested and tried in special Public Order courts. According to the Sudanese constitution, suspects of such are punished by public floggings.

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Public Flogging of a Woman in Sudan

When violence against women is institutionalized by governments that govern according to the Sharia code of laws, how can we expect that men growing in these cultures to stop abusing women?

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Somethings Can’t be Covered

 

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–By: Alexandra Kinias —

It was not uncommon, when I was growing up in Egypt, to hear loud screams screeching the stillness of the hot summer nights, when people opened their windows to the cool Mediterranean breeze. Chilling sounds of women pleading to their husbands to stop or calling for help pierced the neighborhood. And by sunrise, perpetrators walked freely in the streets, as if nothing had happened, while the bruised faces you met, with eyes averted were the only proof of the heinous crime committed against women

Domestic violence is a disturbing phenomenon practiced by men across cultures for control and dominance. According to the UN reports, up to 70 percent of women have experienced violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. And according to the same report, it is estimated that of all women who were victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

No woman is immune against this abhorrent practice regardless of her age, religion, race, education, and social or economic status. And while it is criminalized in many countries around the world, in male dominant societies, as in the Middle East and where sharia is the panel code of law, domestic violence is often blamed on women for bringing it upon themselves.

In these societies, domestic violence is not just accepted, but also promoted, advised and justified by religious scholars. Defenders of the faith deny that Islam is responsible for the perpetuation of violence against women, as it also exists in non-Muslim communities. Many go as far as refuting the interpretation of the verse that explicitly states it.

Domestic violence is practiced by men of other cultures and other beliefs in communities around the world, but in such societies, it is criminalized and perpetrators are punished. On the other hand, in communities where Islam rules, not only it is not criminalized, but also viewed as an acceptable male behavior, where victims are mostly blamed for their victimization.

As violence continues, women not only reach a state of submissiveness in accepting this abusive treatment, but also justify it, and question their role in triggering it. This justification becomes their coping mechanism. It gives them a delusional hope that if they changed, violence would stop. In a survey reported by amnesty international, 39 per cent of Egyptian women agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances, which may include going out without telling him, neglecting the children, arguing with him, refusing to have sex with him, and burning the food.

Awarded with the privileges handed over to them at birth by their gender, men find no need to change. Women in societies where violence pervades are bred to obey, please and work the relationship, take more care of the men’s needs, avoid confrontations, and become a subordinate – not an equal partner – in the relationship. So under whatever circumstances, women believe that it is their fault to be punished for not being a good partner, and often come to the defense of their abusers.

Acknowledging their own fault in triggering their aggression, women modify their attitudes and behavior, as a good wife or partner should. They avoid confrontations, for it’s their role, dictated by their society or community, to be understanding and considerate; to stay calm, accept the abuse and not answer back, not to intimidate, and not to complain. And when women are punished for defying the status quo, they blame themselves and promise to be more careful next time. Unfortunately with each incident, their voices get lower until they are eventually silenced.

Experiencing violence is traumatic and demeaning. Physical and mental abuse is humiliating. It shakes women’s confidence and her self-worth dwindles. It perpetuates in silence because it is shameful to talk about. Perpetrators achieve control over the victim by breaking her emotionally and mentally. Victims become isolated and as a result, the cycle continuous because silence is the perfect ground for abuse to thrive.

Many victims endure years of abuse without seeking help because of financial dependency and fear of homelessness. So instead of breaking away from the relationship, women stay and try to make it work. But against their best judgment, the vicious cycle of domestic violence not only doesn’t end, but it escalates and the episodes become more frequent, severe and intense.

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How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —

megawati

Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.

bangladesh

KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006

sheikh

SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.

turkey

TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.

kyrgyzstan

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.

senegal

MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

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BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.

kosovo

ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.

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Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.

ameenah

AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.

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The Illusion of the International Women’s Day

 

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— By: Alexandra Kinias —

The hype over the International Women’s Day [IWD] has subsided and men are free again to abuse and mistreat women for the next 364 days. I don’t mean to be satirical over this international event nor is my intention to undermine the global efforts to improve women’s conditions and status worldwide. Yet, I have mixed feelings regarding the dedication of certain days to celebrate one cause or another. And IWD is not exempt; not that I disregard the attention that celebrating this day brings to many women’s causes.

Such celebrations remind me of a time when I was growing up in Egypt where the Egyptian government celebrated the ‘Traffic Week’. Not for just a day, but every year, traffic police forces, on full alert, patrolled the streets, to bring law and order – For One Week. They enforced traffic laws, issued tickets for violations and the television broadcast public awareness programs on safe driving and road etiquette. No doubt that such event was created with good intentions, yet it was a total farce. Once the ‘Traffic Week’ was over, the streets of Egypt were left in extreme chaos for 51 weeks. And today Egypt is ranked among the highest countries in the world for road fatalities.

IWD falls under the same category as the ‘Traffic Week’. The only time that traffic came to order was when the government of Egypt decided to take action and punish the violators. And the same goes for women’s issues. With all due respect to the money and efforts spent, nothing really is accomplished until governments intervene to not only issue laws that protect women, but also to enforce them.

I fail to see how conferences and seminars where someone picks the tabs for all the attendees’ flights, accommodations and per diem in a five stars hotel in Europe or the U.S. would benefit an eleven years old girl forced into marriage in a remote village in Yemen or Afghanistan. The monthly income of these girls’ households is often less than the room rates in the hotels where the dignitaries meet.

And while the dignitaries are annually celebrating women’s days, in luxurious hotels worldwide, crimes are still committed against women in every corner of the world. In Afghanistan, in February 2014, a new law passed by the parliament that bans the relatives of an accused person to testify against them. This law is a major setback for the efforts that had been exhausted in fighting violence against women over the last two decades. Afghanistan is a country plagued by honor killing crimes, forced marriages of minors and domestic violence. This law will silence the victims, as these women will no longer be able to bring their attackers – who are usually a family member – to justice. [1]

In Egypt, on the other hand, a doctor will be prosecuted for homicide on charges of killing a 13 years-old-girl. The young victim died in his clinic after she underwent the brutal procedure of female genital mutilation [FGM]. The law that banned FGM under which the doctor will be tried passed in 2008, yet it went into effect in 2014, when the government of Egypt took action to enforce it. [2]

At midnight on March 8th, the IWD was officially over. The lights were turned off in the conference halls. The microphones were switched off, and Facebook profile pictures, of IWD’s supporters, were changed. And from there on it is business as usual. The dignitaries flew back to their offices to write reports and recommendations that will be saved in digital files, printed and bind in reports. They will get their promotions and life goes on. All will be forgotten until next year. Meanwhile, women living thousands of miles away from the luxurious hotels where passionate PowerPoint presentations were addressing their issues, will still be raped, abused, killed by a family member, denied their rights to travel without a man’s permission, and girls will have their genitals mutilated and forced into marriages.

References:

1. New Afghanistan law to silence victims of violence against women

2.Egypt launches first prosecution for female genital mutilation after girl dies 

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Arabian Nights and the Scheherazad-ization of Women

By: Alexandra Kinias

Scheherazade, the glamorous beauty and the heroine of the ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ became famous as the woman who captured Shahrayar’s imagination by her seductive nature and captivating tales. This psychotic dude, who at best would have been admitted in a mental asylum, married a new virgin everyday and sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded to avenge his first wife’s betrayal. In this process of soul searching while recuperating from an injured pride, three thousand women were sacrificed by the time he was introduced to our fame fatal, Scheherazade.

It took Shahrayar one thousand and one nights of bedtime’s stories to fall in love with the mysterious, seductive and exotic lady, who meanwhile also gave birth, nursed, and changed the diapers of their three sons while going through postpartum depression. At the end of these one thousand and one nights, Shahrayar spared her life and made her a Queen. And they lived happily ever after. So, why am I not happy?

Scheherazade who had been in the limelight for over a thousand years as the woman who enchanted Shehrayar became the image of a new art of seduction. As a woman I despise this analysis, and discredit the rationality of this story, even though we are talking here about a fairytale.

It is pathetic that facts were distorted to glorify the abuse she had gone through.  Her story was a classical case of submission. She didn’t create the art of seduction, but rather the art of manipulation. Nobody could blame her for that as she was kept hostage and tyrannized by a blood-thirsty pervert king. How could she have refused his marriage proposal with a sword pointing at her neck? In today’s world of psychology she would have been diagnosed with Stockholm syndrome as she fell in love with her captor.

This brutal story came to my mind while I was browsing the UN website:  UNITE To Stop Violence Against Women. The international organization is engaging forces to adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls; which its secretary general refers to as a pandemic that has to be eradicated.

Violence against women is indeed a pandemic and a global curse where no country and no creed are spared. However, geographic locations can sometimes dictate the fate of the abuser. In the West there are strict punishments against men who abuse women physically. In other countries, where violence against women is sometimes licensed by religious scholars, women’s abusers walk freely in the streets, often hailed for their testosteronal bursts of manhood by their fellows, who share the belief that violence against women is part of their creed. The blame goes to the culture and tradition of these societies as well as to the clerics who promote the abuse of women.

The net result is that as violence against women is culturally  accepted and traditionally embedded in some societies, the UN’s journey to eradicate such brutal acts against women is going to be a long and challenging one. But none the less, it is time to set such a global movement in motion before the day of reckoning comes where we shall be haunted by the ghosts of Sharhayar’s three thousand beheaded wives.

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