Recent Resources for Feminists
Pakistan: Shaista Bukhari & brave sisters completely rid Pipalwala village of Domestic Violence Print E-mail
 Sunday September 28 2014// Zilhaj 2, 1435

A thing of the past

By (Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy)

Southern Punjab is infamous for its treatment of women. It is here that the highest number of acid-related violent crimes are reported and in every district there are cases of ‘honour killings’ and sexual assault. A cursory scan of any newspaper will tell you that Jirga pronouncements against women are very common here.

Against this backdrop, is the village of Pipalwala. The residents of this village make ends meet by rearing cattle and growing vegetables and fruits. Low literacy rates, girls often married as young as fourteen years and up until recently, domestic violence was rampant.

Parveen who grew up in Pipalwala and has four sons was always on the receiving end of her husband’s stick. “He would find any and every excuse to beat me,” she says. “I used to be very afraid. The moment I heard his footsteps, my heart would start to race frantically. I would worry that he might come back and find an excuse to beat me …”

Parveen’s story resonates with almost every single woman in that village. Kaneez, another resident, was married at a young age and her husband would often beat her with an axe handle or a stick, causing serious injuries. “Once he hit me so hard that my nose almost broke and I was bleeding everywhere. He pulled my hair and my entire face was swollen,” she says.

But the fate of Pipalwala and its women changed in 2008 when Shaista Bukhari visited the village.

Shaista was born and raised in Multan. Her father died when she was young and her family encouraged her to marry a man who was 20 years her senior. After five months, her husband died and her in laws abandoned her, blaming her for his sudden death.

With no economic resources to fall back on, she struggled to find work to support herself. After months of searching she landed a contract at a local school canteen. It was at this time that Shaista realised the importance of economic independence and encouraged a group of women to take up embroidery, thereby creating a source of income for them.

For several years after that, she used the model of economic independence to empower women to take their fate in their own hands. “If we are to defeat domestic violence, women must be aware of their rights and must have some economic independence.”

She approached Parveen while working on a project in Pipalwala and encouraged her to discuss domestic violence with other women in her community. “When we started working, this concept was completely alien to them, and even now, the area has no schools,” says Shaista. When we spoke to some of the women, they would break down and start crying and tell us about the traumatic experiences they were going through and ask us what they could do about it.”

With Shaista’s help, Parveen formed a group called Saheli and would often gather the women in her neighbourhood to discuss ways that could change the attitude of men. The group would preach at any occasion they could find. “We would target weddings and funerals. We would tell other women that if you see violence speak up and say something. Treat your husband with love and respect and demand that they do the same,” she says proudly.

After months of perseverance, ‘Saheli’ saw results amongst women. Then, Shaista’s team began speaking to the men in the village and that’s when dramatic change began to take place.

“My husband hugged me one day and said no, I will not hit you ever again,” Parveen tells us joyfully. “He has changed a lot and has started preaching to the men in the village that we must treat our women well.”

After some time, Shaista returned to the village to find a massive sign on its entrance This village is free of domestic violence.She couldn’t believe what she was reading! “Pipalwala is the first village in Pakistan that is completely domestic violence free,” she says. “There will be more villages like this; when people visit this village, something clicks in their heads ­ if it works here, why can’t it work anywhere else?” she says.

Parveen and her cohorts often intervene in domestic violence disputes and try and find solutions for the women. “We don’t want our women to go to the police and the courts, we would rather empower them to solve their own issues,” she says.

A walk through the village shows just how successful Shaista and Parveen have been. Several homes now have plaques that read “This home is free of domestic violence” and you find both men and women actively speaking out against violence.

The commitment of a few has changed the entire mindset of a village that once had the reputation of being mired in all forms of domestic violence.

Sadly, it is not just this village, but across small towns and big cities and across social classes, domestic violence is very real in Pakistan and very few women speak out about it. It’s the accepted norm that your husband has some “right” to verbally and physically assault you. The fault lies partly with women, we don’t speak out, we don’t shun the men who do this and this emboldens them to continue abusing their spouses. We can all learn a thing from Pipalwala and emulate it and perhaps it is time for the sign “This house is free of domestic violence” to be placed outside all our houses!

To watch Shaista Bukhari’s inspirational story: Tune in HERE
India: Social activists seek ban to end commercial surrogacy’s miscarriages of justice for women Print E-mail

 Tuesday September 23, 2014

Regulate surrogacy, say activists

By Smriti Kak Ramachandran

Read also "The Political Economy of Surrogacy - Huge profits vs. Exploitation of Women & Desire for Parenthood"

Rights of women lending their wombs are violated: report

NEW DELHI: Social activists are batting for a ban on commercial surrogacy and have demanded that the practice be regulated like organ donation. Citing the findings of a report on surrogacy in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, they said that in the absence of regulation, surrogacy has transformed into an unfettered, multi-million dollar industry.

A report titled "Surrogacy Motherhood: Ethical or Commercial?"compiled by the Centre for Social Research, with the support of the Ministry of Women and Child Development [Read in full HERE], illustrates that surrogacy has become a "commercial industry"where the rights of surrogate mothers, who are compelled by economic reasons, are violated.

"We found a woman who has been used a surrogate five times; she has four children of her own, so, in all, she underwent child birth nine times. Medical practitioners put the number of safe deliveries at three. Surrogacy has turned women into breeders,"said CSR director Ranjana Kumari.

According to Ms. Kumari, commercial surrogacy has also aggravated the problems of biased sex selection, skewed sex ratio and trafficking of women. "In Surat, we came across a surrogate from Ranchi. There is no telling how many women are being used for lending their wombs through coercion. Just as there is regulation on organ donation, there has to be a similar ban on commercial surrogacy,"she said.

The report flags several aspects of surrogacy that are flouted in India; for instance, the contracts between the surrogates and the commissioning parents are not always legally framed and the provisions for remuneration are not adhered to.

According to the report, 82 per cent of the respondents [surrogates] in Delhi and 69 per cent in Mumbai were married, 12 per cent respondents in each city were divorced. In Mumbai, 14 per cent of the respondents were abandoned and six per cent were separated. "During field investigation, it was found that the fear of abandonment among married surrogate mothers also acts as a driving force to enter into surrogacy arrangements as their husbands consider it an easy way to earn quick money beyond their earning capability either to set up a business, repay a loan or simply enjoy life at the cost of health,"the report says.

"About 27.85 per cent of the respondents in Delhi and 46.91 percent in Mumbai stated that it is poverty that had driven them to take the decision to enter into a surrogacy arrangement. However, 15.82 per cent of the surrogate mothers in Delhi, and 23.46 per cent of them in Mumbai, stated that education of their children had been another driving factor to opt for becoming a surrogate mother. 26.58 per cent of the respondents in Delhi and 17.28 in Mumbai had been approached by the agencies or clinics to become surrogate mothers. To sum up, poverty, approach by agents, unemployment and education of children stand out to be major compelling factors for surrogate mothers to enter into surrogacy arrangements,"the report states.

India: New research again demonstrates Two Child Policy to be anti-women & anti-girl child Print E-mail

 Tuesday September 9 2014

2-child norm for local bodies skews sex ratio

By Rukmini S
Research finds drastic consequences

India’s attempt at a China-type population control policy appears to have had drastic but unintended consequences. Laws enacted by State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political eligibility to candidates with two or less children did reduce family sizes in those States, but severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found.

Over the period, 11 Indian States passed laws disqualifying persons with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections. Some States like Bihar, Gujarat and Uttarakhand enacted such laws later, while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh repealed their laws after 2005. Uttarakhand and Bihar implemented the law only for municipal elections.

In a working paper, economists S. Anukriti from Boston College and Abhishek Chakravarty of the University of Essex looked at seven States ­ Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra ­ in which such laws were in effect between 1992 and 2005.

Using data from various rounds of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and District-Level Household Survey (DLHS), the researchers found that there was a marked decline in the number of women in the general population reporting third births exactly one year after the new policy was announced; the first year was a “grace period” in all of the State laws.

This decline was relative to that State’s own history of decline in fertility as well as other States which didn’t enact such laws.
 Monday September 8 2014

Anti-poor, anti-women laws: expert

By Rukmini Srinivasan

New Delhi: Laws enacted by 11 State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political eligibility to candidates with maximum two children has severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found.

So did the norm for politicians effect a change in the overall population? “We think that the effect is not so much from a role-model effect via people emulating local leaders, but more from people’s desire to remain eligible for future elections themselves. This is because the decline in fertility begins immediately after the grace period ends, whereas a role-model effect would take some time to become visible,” Dr. Chakravarty explained to The Hindu.

The research by economists S. Anukriti from Boston College and Abhishek Chakravarty of the University of Essex also shows that the enactment of these laws led to the worsening of sex ratio in these States. This was particularly true for upper caste families whose first child was a daughter.

There is evidence that men were divorcing their wives to remain eligible for elections, and that such laws were putting the third children at a disadvantage, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, told The Hindu . “These laws – which are purely political decisions – are completely unacceptable. They are anti-poor and anti-women,” she said. “In a country with such a vast unmet need for family planning measures, which is unable to guarantee the survival of children, it is unacceptable that such laws are imposed,” Ms. Muttreja said. Across the world, data has shown that when women got educated, they reduced fertility themselves without needing laws, she said. Moreover, such laws disproportionately impact the poor whose children have worse chances of survival, Ms. Muttreja said.

In 2009, Chintaram Sahariya, an adivasi farmer, stood for and won the sarpanch’s seat in his panchayat – or so he thought. The losing candidate appealed against Mr. Chintaram in Rampur Todiya, a panchayat in Rajasthan’s Baran district, and the latter was disqualified. “I have four sons and admitted as much in my affidavit. I had no idea about the law. The man who appealed against me himself had three children,” he told The Hindu over the phone. “You will not find a Sahariya with less than four children,” Mr. Chintaram said. “So should all of us quit politics?”

Iraq: OWFI’s feminist outreach offered to all woman captured & exploited by ISIS criminals Print E-mail

September 3, 2014

Call for Iraqi Women Victimized by ISIS

Scroll down to also read  interview with OWFI spokesperson Houzan Mahmoud indicating "Political parties need to draw women into their ranks to make themselves credible"

The Islamic State of Iraq and Levantine (ISIS) atrocities, since the occupation of Mosul city, have shocked the Iraqi and the International community altogether. Their criminal conduct is abysmal against Iraqi women in general, and specifically against the Yazidi, Christian, Shiite Shebek and Turkomen women.

The women are kidnapped and sold in groups and as individuals, to become temporary wives for ISIS warriors where they are forcibly held as sex slaves under the name of “Sexual Jihad.” Those atrocities have escalated throughout the month of August in line with committing genocide against the minority communities. As the massacres committed against the Yazidi, Shiite, and Christian communities were followed by the taking of hundreds of women to the newly set-up “concubine market” in Mosul, to the cinema building in Telafar, all the way to the Syrian depth of Islamic state, for the purpose of selling those women as sexual slaves.

Moreover the “purchase” of sexual slaves is made easy and “affordable” for the foreign ISIS warriors who came from distant countries, while the prices are higher for local war lords, tribal heads.

Some women however, are being used as human shields in order to protect the ISIS facilities from airstrikes, such as in the case of Telafar. The ISIS organization has caused Iraqis unprecedented catastrophic conditions throughout the captivity of women similar to the Islamic conquests that took place thousands of years ago; thus creating pain and devastation beyond any modern expectation, uprooting some of the most ancient communities who never witnessed this extent of horror, massacre, and insult to their dignity, denying them any possibility of a secure life in the near future. ISIS do not hesitate to commit any horrendous crime even towards children such as the beheadings or selling their human organs; as they take advantage of selling women and trafficking in children’s organs for the purpose of financing their state.

OWFI hereby reaches out to every woman detained or exploited by the criminal organization of ISIS in Mosul, Telafar, Sinjar, as well as the Western cities of Iraq. We in the OWFI stand with you and strive to provide logistic and financial support to you in order that you escape your concentration camps controlled by ISIS. We will send individuals who can help you to arrive at our safe home in Baghdad where we provide you with all the care and safety you need.Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Call us at our organization numbers: (07800) 036317 or (07700) 036317

To all women chained and detained by ISIS slave-drivers, to all women who are forced to hide in their homes, to girls who aspire to live the in freedom dignity, and to all Yazidi women and Turkomen Telafar women, contact us at these numbers listed above and we will find a way to deliver financial and logistic support to get you to our houses safely. We beg you not to end your life or undervalue it in any way, or surrender to despair as a result of heavy torture or humiliation under the hands of ISIS criminals. Tomorrow brings hope with, and after every storm comes sunshine.

Long live Yazidi, Christian, Talafer, and Amerli women, in freedom and dignity Down with the ISIS monsters
August 28, 2014


September 7, 2014

Houzan Mahmoud: Political parties need to draw women into their ranks to make themselves “credible”

Hazhar Osman: What is your opinion on Islamic State jihadists?

Houzan Mahmoud: I would rather call them ISIS terrorists, since in my opinion Islamist jihad has always been about terror and terrorism. We can no longer separate the two terms, jihad and terrorism. Terror against defenceless civilians and massacres of non-Muslims – even Muslims who are not from the same religious sect – have become visible characteristics of jihadist/terrorist groups. Look at all the Islamic governments in our region: They are very similar to ISIS, if not the same. Anything to with Islamism and jihad has a very similar outcome for people in terms of brutality. What ISIS did recently, regardless of their origin and who is behind them and why they arrived in Mosul, is in itself a big story. At the same time we all saw how they are targeting Shiite civilians, Christians, Yazidis, and all other religious groups in Iraq.

I will always associate jihadists/terrorists with killing and rape, taking women as sex slaves to sell in ISIS slave markets and beheadings of civilians. They will never have any other associations in my mind and memory. We should all remember what they’ve done to Yazidi women, Christians, and other groups. They have left a dark stain and created a bloody history for themselves. Kurdistan will never be the same again; we should never tolerate Islamist terrorism and genocide. Kurdistan and its Peshmerga forces have proven to be in the forefront of fighting against these forces of darkness and medievalism.

Hazhar Osman: Why women are involved and fighting for ISIS jihadists?

Houzan Mahmoud: Women involving themselves in politics over the past decades have become a noteworthy phenomenon in the Middle East. People join political parties because the particular ideologies fit with their ideals of life. Of course there will be men as well as women joining ISIS for different reasons. Many political parties including Islamist parties, both those who are in power and outside of power, have women in their ranks. Also, each political party needs a huge membership, men or women it does not matter, so long as they can attract new people and recruit them into their ranks.

Having women involved in politics has been a result of the ongoing struggle by women to be part of the decision making in political parties and in government. Women constitute half of society. But women are no longer only home makers; they are also present at work, at university, and even in the military in some countries. Political parties need to draw women into their ranks to make themselves “credible”.

Above all, Islamic jihadist/terrorists want women for sex. A huge part of their propaganda has been about sex and sexual jihad. They promise men 72 virgins in heaven and sexual jihad or Jihad Al-nikah on earth, whereby female terrorists will serve male terrorists by providing sexual services. The whole idea of the sexual objectification of women has been part and parcel of their politics. After all it is taken from their holy book and Islamic Sharia law.

Hahzar Osman: Many feminists held the view that women are marginalized in Kurdish policy making, but we have seen many women politicians as spokespersons of their country in this life-and-death situation. What are your views on this?

Houzan Mahmoud: I would still argue that women in our region are not fully empowered and our existence is not fully acknowledged. We have been struggling on many fronts with our male counterparts. Women themselves have made gains and proven their public existence by entering the many professions, politics, art, education, and even the Peshmerga. Despite this, we are still far from being seen as equal human beings in our societies.

Let me make it clear here that having women in high-party posts and as spokespersons does not necessarily reflect their own will. We know in politics that people have to follow the party line and agenda, even if that agenda is detrimental to women’s rights and empowerment. Of course I am for women’s presence and existence in all spheres of life. The important thing is we must continue with our fight for rights, freedom, and dignity for society as a whole. However, if the system is patriarchal and has retained all the structures that discriminate against women, how can women politicians be visibly effective?

Hazhar Osman: Tens of thousands of Yezidis, Christians, and other minorities in Iraq have been displaced, including children and women. What should Kurdish authorities do for them? Do you believe that they may face abuse, rape, and death?

Houzan Mahmoud: What has happened to our Yazidi brothers and sisters is genocide. This was not the first time: Yazidis have been subjected to genocide several times in history. What ISIS terrorists did to all groups in Iraq, and especially to Yazidis, by kidnapping women and children to sell as sex slaves is horrendous and beyond my worst nightmares. Let alone the beheadings and the massacres of Yazidi men. All of us are duty bound to publicize it, talk about it, tell the world, make films, and write the story as it happened.

Let me say that the Iraqi regime is useless and dysfunctional. Above all, it’s an ethnic-sectarian regime. They did not want to, and were incapable of, providing protection to anyone. The Iraqi regime is itself part of the problem, containing as it does representatives of political parties that are as bad as ISIS.

Although my hopes are not very high for the Kurdistan Regional Government, they should work harder to save Yazidis and bring back the captured women and girls. Also they should fully compensate people who have lost their homes, bread winners, children, and loved ones. The victims need care, attention, support, and solidarity. Their ordeal will need to be discussed and coped with for many years to come.

I am deeply saddened and shocked by all the brutality taking place in our region today. Islamists and right wing fascists are targeting particular groups and turning people’s lives into hell. Political Islamist ideology should be countered more forcefully wherever it raises its head. Our society has gone through many ordeals; we don’t need this outdated religious ideology to ruin our gains, lives, and countries. It should be pushed back into the desert where it belongs.

Houzan Mahmoud is a Kurdish women’s rights campaigner, and the Spokesperson of the Organisations of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She was born in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1973 and currently residing in London. Her articles were published in UK publications including The Independent and The Guardian, The Tribune, The New Statesman and others. Houzan is an international voice for women’s and workers’ rights in Iraq and Kurdistan; led many campaigns internationally, including campaigns against the rape and abduction of women in Iraq, and against the imposition of Islamic sharia law in Kurdistan and Iraqi constitution. She led many other campaigns around the world against so-called honour killings, and against violation of freedom of expression. She has written many articles about the situation of women in Iraq, Kurdistan and Middle East, which have been translated into and published in many languages.

Australia: Equal Pay Day Sept 5 reveals women working an extra 64 days to earn same as men Print E-mail

 Thursday September 4 2014

Women must work an extra 64 days to equal mens' pay

By Alana Schetzer/Reporter

Women may be able to do it, but they must work 64 extra days a year to achieve the same wages that men earned in the previous financial year.

Industrial segregation and "unconscious bias" is leading the growing gender pay gap, the head of Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency says.

WGEA director Helen Conway said the dominance of men in top-level jobs and a culture of bosses promoting employees they can relate to meant women faced extra hurdles to receive equal pay.

"There is plain discrimination, some of it is conscious and [some] unconscious. There is gender bias in the way we make pay decisions and other ways that impact pay," she said.

"An organisation may pay women and men doing the same jobs the same amounts, but have an organisation-wide gender pay gap because women are under-represented in management, and over-represented in lower-paid roles."

September 5 is Equal Pay Day, which represents the 64 days since the start of the new financial year, when women's earnings match those of their male counterparts.

"Workers in female-dominated industries tend to receive lower wages than those in male-dominated industries, such as mining," Ms Conway said.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistic figures show the gender pay gap has widened to a 10-year high. Women are now earning less than their male counterparts for the same work since records were first collected in 1994, with an 18.2 per cent difference.

According to the ABS, the average ordinary full-time weekly earnings for men is $1559.10 compared to $1275.90 for women. In the past 12 months, men's average salary increased 2.9 per cent, but women realised an increase of just 1.9 per cent.

The federal government and businesses are facing increasing pressure to address the growing gap

 executive officer Sally Jope said getting more young women into non-traditional industries such as trades, mining and construction was key to helping address the growing wage gap.

"There's no reason why women shouldn't be represented in those industries," she said.

The pay gap starts immediately for most women. A recent report from Graduate Careers Australia revealed the average starting salary for a female university graduate in 2013 was $51,600 compared to men's $55,000. The biggest gap is in architecture and building, where there is a $6500 pay gap.

Women also fall behind in superannuation, with the average retirement fund one third of what men retire on - $37,000 compared to $110,000.

WGEA will launch a new campaign encouraging some of Australia's biggest companies to establish a gender pay audit at the end of September.

More than 4000 chief executive officers and human resource teams will be invited to take part in the program to help lift the current 18 per cent rate of gender pay audits.

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