Recent Resources for Feminists
Sudan: Women bravely defiant in face of regime which criminalizes them to justify its misogyny Print E-mail
October 3 2013, Issue 648

FEATURES

Sudanese women: you can beat us but you cannot break us

By Hala Alkarib

Political Islam in Sudan remains very strong and manifests itself in floggings of Sudanese women that are justified by the constitution in the Indecent and Immoral Acts. Yet, Sudanese women remain defiant and resist these unjust and misogynistic laws (c.c T V W)

While the anger is accumulating in Sudan and peaceful demonstrators are being injured and killed by the Sudanese regime forces, this comes as a natural result of years of injustices. Sudan has been exposed to the brutality of the dogmatic ideology of political Islam, and the people have been stripped of their dignity. The story here is just a tip of the iceberg. Sudanese women are the mirror of the cruelty and disparity imposed by the ruling regime.

For 25 years now, women in Sudan have been flogged publicly. The current Sudanese regime’s ideology was clear from day one; terrorizing women - which amounts to paralysing a whole nation. Like all dogma in political Islam, the regime sat and agreed that the road to secure their position was through controlling women’s bodies, minds, existence and interaction in public. Their misogynistic ideology is based on women being problematic and in need of being disciplined and controlled: that women are both dangerous and the main instigator of immorality, equally responsible for all evil in society, hence the need to be told how to behave in public.

CRIMINALISING WOMEN TO JUSTIFY MISOGYNY
‘It’s not enough to talk to them; we have to punish them and install fear in their minds because they are not intelligent and are spiritually unfit. Their fathers and husbands are unable to control them.’ These are the beliefs that underpin Article 152 of the Sudan criminal code, ‘Indecent and Immoral Acts’ - on the basis of which Amira Osman, a Sudan activist, is currently facing trial, and under which thousands of invisible poor women have already been tried, sentenced and publicly lashed. Their laughter is seen as a crime, their presence provoking sin.

This is how the regime vaguely drafted Article 154 of the criminal code, 'Practicing Prostitution.” The article defines a ‘place of prostitution’ as "any place designated for the meeting of men and women between whom there is no marital relationship, or kinship, in circumstances in which the exercise of sexual acts is probable to occur". Hundreds of women are being charged under this article every day, inside their homes and work places. The breadth of interpretation effectively allows women in any public place in which a woman can be in the same room as an unrelated man to be tried under this article.

The offence of ‘possession of materials and displays contrary to public morality’ of Article 153 has exposed thousands of young women to the madness of the public order police and deprived them of simply living normally, and with dignity. The Sudan public order laws are written in a vague and elusive way in order to allow judges and the law enforcers to employ their own interpretations of the law. This has turned the legal system into self serving machinery manipulated and twisted against women's presence and participation in public.

Sara is a 25 year old artist and school teacher at a private school. Early this year, while on her way back home, she was stopped and picked up by the public order police. She was wearing trousers and a long sleeved T- shirt. She was sexually assaulted, verbally humiliated and then charged under Article 152 for wearing trousers. According to her story, by the time they picked her up, there were twelve other women inside the vehicle all of whom had been picked up randomly by the public order police while walking on public roads. None of them had committed any crime, all were just walking along minding their own business. They were detained for 24 hours, their phones were confiscated. In the morning the judge called them out by name and when her name was called Sara says the judge asked her, ‘what do you want 40 lashes or paying 1000 SDP?’ She said she only had ten pounds, then he yelled ‘40 lashes’ and the soldier grabbed her. They took her to the yard inside the detention block, made her sit on the sand floor and they started whipping her. ‘After 10 extremely painful lashes’, she said. ‘I was numbed and I could only hear the mocking and the laughter of the soldiers standing around and asking the flogger to beat harder.’

BEATING WOMEN TO SUBMIT
Forty-four year old Halima brews alcohol locally and sells it to men from all over Khartoum. She is the breadwinner of her family of six children and two elderly parents, all of whom depend on her for their care. She said she has been flogged and jailed many times, ‘every time they come they take away the alcohol, re-sell it to consumers or they drink it, and beat me for making it.’

THE DEAD ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE LIVING
Amena, 56 years old, sells tea next to a private hospital. She says, ‘they keep taking my kettle and cups all the time, sometimes they flog me, or if I have some money I give it to them. These days I have found a place next to the graveyard to sell my tea. I still get customers, but the police rarely come close to me - I think the dead in our country are more powerful than the living.’

The tales of these women reflect more or less how millions of Sudanese women are living.

FAILURE TO COVER HER HAIR
Hundreds of women flocked to court to attend Amira Osman’s trial, a Sudanese activist who was charged under Article 152 for not covering her hair with a scarf. Her trial has now been postponed until 4 November 2013. These women will not give up their humanity and dignity, despite the whip being held to their heads.

The battle against Sudan’s public order regime, which has been infused within the criminal code of the country, has been going on for years across the country. This regime has been utilized to repress women, to compromise their livelihoods, to impoverish them, to limit their participation in public life, sport, cultural activities and mobility, as well as to limit their political participation. The Sudanese discriminatory laws and the public order regime are affecting communities for generations to come by imposing the subordination of women in the mindset of the younger generation, and hence taking away any potential for progress and peace.

*Hala Alkarib is the Director of the Strategic Initiative for women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) 


India: Women lose family & shelter, plus face sexual violence from communal riots in Uttar Pradesh Print E-mail

 Sunday Magazine ~ September 29, 2013

THE OTHER HALF

The politics of violence

By Kalpana Sharma
Riot-affected women and children at a makeshift camp in Muzaffarnagar.(PTI)

In all the reports about the recent communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar, little has been written about the trauma suffered by women.

Imagine if you are a woman with several children and a riot breaks out. You can run, carry one child, hold the hand of the other. But what about the rest? Who do you leave behind? How can you make sure they will be safe? How do you live with the choices you made in that moment of terror and panic?

These are the harrowing choices that hundreds of women must have faced when the communal violence flared up in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district last month. As Muslim families fled, leaving behind their homes, some were also forced to abandon members of their own families. And now they have no idea what happened to those they left behind, whether they are alive or dead.

This is one of the more disturbing accounts that comes through in a small report prepared by a group of 11 women working in U.P. with different non-governmental organisations whose focus has been gender. The report is impressionistic; it does not pretend to be a balanced fact-finding report. Yet, in its very simplicity, it conveys some of the trauma and immense sadness that is a reality for the thousands who continue to shelter under shaky tarpaulin shelters in the humid heat of September.

Titled “A human tragedy unfolds as the State watches”, the report describes six relief camps; three each in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts. Calling it a Preliminary Citizens’ Report, it narrates what the inhabitants of these camps told the team. Possibly because the team consisted only of women, the report gives us a small but essential insight into what women experienced. For instance, they quote a number of women telling them how they had to leave children behind. Yet, even after the violence ended, the district administration has not been able to help them trace missing family members or even to prepare a list of people who are missing.

Also unspoken and unwritten are stories of sexual violence. They are not easy to record. Some of the women spoke hesitatingly about rape, about having their clothes torn off. But they were afraid to go into more details or to register cases.

We cannot forget that it took a team of women to visit Gujarat soon after the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 to write a comprehensive report on the sexual violence perpetrated on women. Their report, “The Survivors Speak: Sexual Violence Against Women” is still relevant today even if the searing testimonies of the survivors in the report relate specifically to Gujarat. For through these testimonies we understand how women become the collateral damage during such communal conflagrations.

In Muzaffarnagar, too, such a follow up will be needed so that this ugly side of communal violence, that scars the bodies and souls of so many women, does not go unrecorded and hence unrecognised.

It is so easy to miss women’s narrative at a time of heightened political competition in the run up to the general elections next year. Yet each recording of such testimonies informs us that regardless of the location, there is a common theme that runs through them ­ that men and women experience violent conflict in different ways. And there can be no real healing or rehabilitation unless this difference is noted and recognised.

The displaced women in Muzaffarnagar have no voice at the moment. Given the status of women in that region, where men fight feuds and their women are part of an unwritten “honour” code, they might never find a voice. Yet experiences around the world have underlined repeatedly, that women must have a say in the aftermath of conflict and in building a peace that lasts.

Currently, the dominant theme of discussion around Muzaffarnagar and the fallout of the violence is politics ­ who gains and who loses, who started it, who fanned the flames, who is to blame. Yet, the real politics of such violence is the grief a mother feels when she is compelled to abandon her child; the nightmares a young woman confronts each day as she recalls sexual violence; the harsh daily reality confronting pregnant women, nursing mothers, elderly women surviving in makeshift camps without sanitation, privacy or health care. Who is bothering to address these issues?
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 Sunday September 29 2013

Muzaffarnagar riots: Rape complaints registered across all violence-hit areas

By Pritha Chatterjee



Weeks after the Muzaffarnagar communal violence, four women, all from Fugana village, have alleged rape in written complaints to the police. The Fugana police station has registered two cases of rape and one case of molestation so far.

Confirming this, Kalpana Saxena, SP (Crime), Muzaffarnagar, said, "The matter has been transferred to the special investigation team of the Uttar Pradesh Police."

While two complaints were filed on September 20, the third was filed on September 24, and the last on September 28. In two cases, the husbands of the victims, now living in relief camps, filed the complaints. One victim is a 23-year-old unmarried woman, while the rest are aged between 35 and 45 years.

The Sunday Express has copies of all the complaints. Two victims, in separate complaints, have alleged that five-six men forced their way into their houses and raped them. Another victim has said her house was set on fire, and when she was fleeing, six men threatened her with weapons, forced her inside a nearby house, and raped her.

"We are receiving complaints from all over Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and other districts. Since Fugana is one of the worst-hit areas in the district, it also has the highest number of complaints," said Saxena, adding that it took time to sift through these complaints and lodge cases.

"Complaints which have been lodged as rape cases mention the actual act of rape, others speak of sexual harrasment in vague terms. Those have been registered under sections pertaining to molestation," said a senior police officer.

Saxena said the police have only examined 200 riot-related complaints so far, and there were hundreds left.

"When violence broke out on September 8, my husband was at my daughter's house. I ran out... five men blocked my path, and forced me inside my own house. They were all men I knew... They raped me till I became unconscious," said a victim.

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October 2, 2013

Muzaffarnagar gangrapes: No justice for these Nirbhayas

By Danish Raza


She grew up with them ­ the three men who ganged up to rape her.

Even as she kept calling them by their first names, pleading for mercy, they continued to violate her body. Her mother, who was tied to a chair, fainted on seeing the unimaginable happening before her.

Yet, after a week, when the two women approached the police, they briefed the cops about other atrocities. They did not mention rape. As if it never took place.

This is the story of numerous women who were gang raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, around 150 kilometers from the national capital, which witnessed large scale riots.

Almost three weeks after communal clashes broke in the district, reports of gangrapes are finding space in the national media. Unlike the Delhi gangrape case which caught the imagination of the country, hundreds of gangrapes during riots continue to fall through the cracks.

This is irrespective of the community of the victim, the region where the riot takes place and the political party ruling the state. PTI A major reason why gender violence during riots largely goes unreported is because it becomes one of the many crimes taking place in a tense situation. PTI The anatomy of rapes and riots is the same across the country.

A miniscule percentage of actual rapes which take place during riots are reported to the authorities. Even lesser go to the trial stage, say activists who have closely observed patterns of gender violence in successive riots.

A major reason why gender violence during riots largely goes unreported is because it becomes one of the many crimes taking place in a tense situation, unlike an isolated case of rape where the crime takes place when the victim may be least expecting it. Archana Dwivedi, deputy director of Nirantar, a Delhi based resource centre for gender, visited Muzaffarnagar. She says, “Women become subjects of many forms of violence during communal violence ­ their houses being burnt, children killed and husbands getting maimed before them.

Although brutal, gangrape is one of the many forms of tortures in such clashes.” Government authorities and the police first try to bring the situation under control before taking stock of the damage done. When they reach to the victims, finally, they find that registration of FIRs related to sexual violence is not the first priority for the victims. “Very often, victims inform the authorities of other violations which they believe are more important such as loss of property and missing children. It happens, partially, because men come forward to lodge complaints,” says Dwivedi.

Riots lead to displacement of victims numbering in thousands. While some never go back to their native places, others cannot afford to relocate. For many rape victims, therefore, it is the fear of once again facing the rapist in the neighbourhood which stops them from lodging complaints. “It is particularly true in cases where the victim belongs to a lower caste and the rapist is from an upper caste.

Many such cases happened in Muzaffarnagar,” says Vimal Thorat, Hindi language professor with Indira Gandhi National Open University, who have visited riot effected areas including Muzaffarnagar, Kandhamal and Gujarat. For the minority ­ victims who can confront the men who violated them ­ aid reaches them too late, says Manshi Sharma, a Delhi based social activist. “By the time police begins the probe, the evidence is gone. What will the victim’s medical test prove 20 or 30 days after gang rape? Unusual time gaps increase legal complexities in such cases,” she says.

Others believe that in an age when it takes street protests to get justice in a gangrape case in Delhi, expecting proper follow- up of every sexual violence case during riot, sounds ambitious. “The normal wheels of justice even when you are not handicapped by your identity move very slowly for ordinary women as well. When you are of a vulnerable caste or community, your ability to access justice is considerably weakened,” says Farha Naqvi, women’s rights activist.

Egypt: NCW lead NGOs proposing criminalisation of all VAW & ending gender-based discrimination Print E-mail
 September 25 2013

Making up for lost ground

Women intend to play an effective role in amending the upcoming constitution

By Reem Leila

 Al-Tellawi heads the NCW roundtable

The National Council for Women (NCW), headed by Mervat Al-Tellawi, joined forces with a number of non-governmental organisations to submit proposals to the 50-member committee assigned with amending the 2012 constitution. The proposals include criminalising all violence against women and ending gender-based discrimination.

On 18 September the 50-member committee accepted the suggestion submitted by the NCW that Article 11 which stipulates that “the state is obliged to guarantee full equality between men and women in all fields and fair representation of women in elected bodies” be expanded to include a commitment to “protecting women from all kinds of violence” ensuring women are able to exercise all their rights as citizens without discrimination.

Women, stresses Al-Tellawi, comprise more than 50 per cent of society. “As mothers, wives and daughters they have the right to view and review the constitution in order to safeguard society’s rights as a whole.”

NCW members are currently taking part in meetings with hundreds of activists and representatives of community groups. Council members are also meeting with representatives of civil associations, political parties, trade unions, universities, rural workers and state institution employees. “The council is canvassing opinion on the constitution as a whole, not just on articles concerning women and children,” says Al-Tellawi.

Sekina Fouad, veteran journalist and presidential adviser on women and family affairs, says that while the number of seats occupied by women on the 50-member committee is insufficient, the five women ­ Azza Al-Ashmawi from the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood, Mervat Al-Tellawi, head of the NCW, Mona Zulfaqqar from the National Council for Human Rights, Abla Mohieddin from the Industrial Chambers Committee and Hoda Al-Sadda, professor of English literature, feminist writer and activist ­ who are members are all “top notch”.

Data from several questionnaires distributed among representative cross section of citizens by the NCW was forwarded to the Constitutional Committee on 22 September. “The council has also launched a website and a hotline to receive suggestions on the new constitution,” says Al-Tellawi.

On 23 September members of NCW joined with representatives from women’s NGOs in a meeting with the 50-member committee to submit detained suggestions for amendments to several articles.

Article 1 of the constitution states that the Arab Republic of Egypt is a socialist democratic state and it is united and cannot be divided and that the Egyptian people are part of the Arab and Islamic Nations. The NCW has suggested that the article should also include a reference to Egypt “being proud of its African and Asian affiliation”.

The council also suggested that articles 2 and 3 be merged. Article 2 stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language, and the main source of legislation is the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence while Article 3 stipulates that the canonical prescriptions of Egyptian Christians and Jews should govern matters of personal status, religious practice and the selection of their spiritual leaders.

“Merging them in only one article is better because they relate,” says Al-Tellawi.

Article 9 of the draft constitution stipulates that “the state shall ensure the safety, security and equal opportunities of all citizens without discrimination.” The NCW has suggested that “shall ensure” be replaced by “is committed”.

While Article 10 of the suspended constitution guaranteed certain social rights for women it failed to address the problem of violence against them. Article 10 stated that “the state shall ensure free maternal and child health services and facilitate the reconciliation between the duties of a woman towards her family and her work. The state shall provide special care and protection to female breadwinners, divorced women and widows.” The NCW proposes the addition of a clause stating “the state is committed to preventing all forms of violence against women, whether domestic or public.”

Article 38 of the chapter on Rights, Freedom and Public Duties stipulates that “all citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination based on sex, religion, language, creed, origin or any other reason.” The NCW believes a clause should be explicitly criminalising all forms of discrimination.

Paragraph 3 of Article 39 stipulates “the person arrested or detained has the right of appeal to the courts against the measure of arrest. If a decision is not provided within a week, release becomes imperative.” The NCW suggests the addition of the phrase “according to the law” so the article reads as follows: “The person arrested or detained has the right of appeal to the courts against the measure of arrest according to the law. If a decision is not provided within a week, release becomes imperative.”

The first paragraph of Article 57 states that “professional syndicates are regulated by law and managed on a democratic basis, the accountability of their members subject to professional codes of ethics. One trade union is allowed per profession.” The NCW is pushing for the phrase “professional codes of ethics” to be replaced by “professional codes”.

The first two paragraphs of Article 60 stipulate “every child, from the moment of birth, has the right to a proper name, family care, basic nutrition, shelter, health services and religious, emotional and cognitive development. The state shall care for and protect the child in the case of the loss of family. The state also safeguards the rights of disabled children and their rehabilitation and integration into society.” The NCW wants the article to read: “Every child, from the moment of birth, has the right to a proper name, family care, basic nutrition, shelter, health services and religious, emotional cognitive and educational development. The state shall care for and protect the child in the case of the loss of family. The state is committed to safeguarding the rights of disabled children, orphans and homeless children and their rehabilitation and integration into society.”

Article 64 of the draft constitution stipulates: “Citizens’ participation in public life is a national duty. Every citizen shall have the right to vote, stand in elections and express opinions in referendums according to the provisions of the law. The state is responsible for the inclusion of the name of every citizen who is qualified to vote in the voters database without waiting for an application. The state shall ensure the fairness, validity, impartiality and integrity of referendums and elections. Interference in anything of the above is a crime punishable by law.”

NCW believes it should read: “Citizens’ participation in public life is a right and national duty. Every citizen shall have the right to vote, stand in elections and express opinions in referendums according to the provisions of the law. It is permissible to be exempted from practicing this right in cases defined by the provisions of the law… ”

Article 138 of the draft constitution stipulates that the prime minister or any presidential candidate must be an Egyptian citizen born to Egyptian parents, must have possessed no other citizenship, must have civil and political rights, cannot be married to a non-Egyptian, and at the time of nomination cannot be younger than 30 years. The NCW has suggested that a clause be added requiring that the children of candidates also possess only Egyptian nationality. “Given what happened under the previous regime and under the rule of former president Mohamed Morsi this procedure should be taken as a precautionary measure,” says Al-Tellawi.

The NCW is also seeking to extend Article 49 which currently reads: “Freedom of creativity in its various forms is the right of every citizen. The state shall advance science, literature and the arts, care for creators and inventors, protect their creations and innovations, and work to apply them for the benefit of society. The state shall take the necessary measures to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage and promote cultural services.” It wants the amended article to include researchers alongside creators and inventors and to make explicit reference to the protection of research.

According to a recent press release the Ministry of Scientific Research has failed to spend 82 per cent of its annual budget. Accordingly, the budget will be cut as a result, which will definitely affect staff at government research institutions. After the 25 January Revolution Egypt’s annual budget for research has risen by more than one third to become LE1.3 billion. “Unfortunately, the budget will be reduced next year, after the majority of this year’s was returned unspent. Therefore we need to find useful means to spend the budget allocated for scientific research,” said Al-Tellawi.

Article 77 stipulates: “The People’s Assembly shall have at least 450 members, elected by direct, secret public ballot. A candidate for parliamentary elections must be an Egyptian citizen, enjoying civil and political rights, holder of a certificate of basic education, and 25-years-old or older at the time of candidacy. Other requirements of candidacy, provisions for election, the fair division of constituencies, shall be defined by law.”

NCW members have joined with women activists to suggest the article be amended to the following: “The People’s Assembly shall have at least 450 members, elected by direct, secret public ballot, only two thirds of which should comprise one sex…”

Nehad Abul-Qomsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, points out that Egypt has slipped in international tables of female participation in the decision-making process. “Egypt ranked 139 out of 142 among 189 countries through women’s representation which is two per cent. This led women to participate strongly in the squares of the revolution demanding the change and refusing the exclusion,” said Abul-Qomsan.

Female representation in parliament has only grown in Egypt when either a quota system or the proportional list system was in place, as in 1979, 1984 and 2010. Women continue to suffer from cultural, social and political discrimination even though they comprise a potentially influential voting bloc.

The debate on any women’s right in general, and political rights in particular, still disturbs many people. Women’s issues are generally ignored except in the run-up to elections, when politicians will pay lip service in an attempt to win votes. In the 2012 parliament there were just eight female members out of 500.

Abul-Qomsan believes that if the coming elections adopt the list form “then one third of the list should be allocated to female nominees and a third of women candidates placed high on the lists”.

Al-Tellawi stresses that acknowledging and integrating political, social and economic issues that impact on women is necessary in the transitional period if any advances are to be made. “Women’s issues should not be discussed in isolation from wider societal interactions. It is also essential to listen to their demands as well as hold those who committed crimes against them accountable,” she says.


Global: Death by stoning on the rise. Sign the campaign to the UN to “Stop Stoning Women Now” Print E-mail

 London ~ Sunday 29 September 2013

Special report: The punishment was death by stoning. The crime? Having a mobile phone

This barbaric form of execution is on the rise, and campaigners are calling on the UN to act [Scroll down to read about the campaign "Stop Stoning Women Now" and a link to the Petition]

By Emma Batha

In Iran, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, here with her son Sajjad, has been sentenced to death by stoning (AFP/Getty)

Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.

Arifa Bibi's uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It's unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Women's rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.

"Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death," said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. "It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms."

She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.

Stoning is not legal in most Muslim countries and there is no mention of it in the Koran. But supporters argue that it is legitimised by the Hadith – the acts and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed. Stoning is set out as a specific punishment for adultery under several interpretations of sharia or Islamic law. In some instances, even a woman saying she has been raped can be considered an admission to the crime of zina (sex outside marriage).

In one case cited by Shameem, a 13-year-old Somali girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was buried up to her neck and stoned by 50 men in front of 1,000 people at a stadium in Kismayu in 2008. Her father told Amnesty International she had been raped by three men but was accused of adultery when she tried to report the rape to the al-Shabaab militia in control of the city.

Extrajudicial terror
Iran has the world's highest rate of execution by stoning. No one knows how many people have been stoned but at least 11 people are in prison under sentence of stoning, according to an Iranian human rights lawyer, Shadi Sadr.

Sadr, who has represented five people sentenced to stoning, said Iran carried out stonings in secret in prisons, in the desert or very early in the morning in cemeteries. "Pressure from outside Iran always helps. The Islamic Republic pretends that they don't care about their reputation, but they do care a lot," added Sadr, who lives in exile in Britain.

In 2010, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, caused international outcry. The authorities have suspended her sentence but she remains in prison. Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year, but have since reinserted it.

Stoning is also a legal punishment for adultery in Mauritania, a third of Nigeria's 36 states, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In some countries, such as Mauritania and Qatar, stoning has never been used although it remains legal. However, in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, stoning is not legal but tribal leaders, militants and others carry it out extrajudicially. "In Afghanistan, warlords are manipulating religion to terrorise the population for their own political ends. Stoning is one way of doing that," said Shameem, a human rights lawyer who is co-ordinating the Stop Stoning Women campaign.

Origins
Stoning has been used as a form of community justice throughout history in various religious and cultural traditions, many pre-dating Islam. Unlike beheading, which is performed by a single executioner, stoning is carried out by a group.

The practice has been documented among the Ancient Greeks to punish people judged to be prostitutes, adulterers or murderers. It is also mentioned in the Jewish Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud. Today, it is predominantly associated with Muslim culture. However, clerics are deeply divided. Supporters of stoning say the Hadith depicts the Prophet as occasionally ordering stoning in cases of extramarital sex.

But some scholars say these acts and sayings – recorded several hundred years after the Prophet's death – have been misinterpreted. Others argue that the Prophet was simply following prevailing customs and Jewish law. Modern laws sanctioning stoning as a punishment for adultery emerged with the revival of political Islam in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Discrimination
Campaigners say women are more likely to be convicted of adultery than men because discriminatory laws and customs penalise women more for extramarital sex.

If a man is unhappy with his wife he can – depending on the country – divorce, take other wives or marry another woman temporarily. A woman has few options. She can divorce only in certain circumstances and risks losing custody of her children. Men accused of adultery are also more likely to have the means to hire lawyers, and their greater physical freedom makes it easier for them to flee in situations where they risk extrajudicial stoning.

Activists say trials are often unfair. Convictions are frequently based on confessions made under duress. As adultery is difficult to prove, judges in Iran can also convict on the basis of gut feeling rather than evidence.

Even the manner of stoning is loaded against women. People sentenced to stoning in Iran are partially buried. If they can escape they are spared. But women are customarily buried up to their chests while men are only buried up to their waists.

Stoning contravenes a host of UN treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that no one should be subjected to torture, or cruel or inhuman punishment. The treaty, which Iran and Pakistan have signed, allows countries to execute people only for "the most serious crimes".

Many prominent Muslim clerics have spoken in support of a ban on stoning, deeming it un-Islamic and antithetical to the Koran's emphasis on repentance and compassion. Shameem said stoning mostly happened in conflict or post-conflict areas where politicians, warlords and militants exploit people's religious beliefs as they jockey for power. Mali saw its first case last year after Islamist militants took control of the north of the country. It is not clear why, in Bibi's case, the tribal court should have justified stoning as a punishment for owning a mobile phone. Shameem said stoning and the threat of stoning was being used "to control women, constrain their freedoms, and police their sexuality".

The threat of stoning has even happened in Tunisia, a relatively liberal country with no history of stoning. This year, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia called for a teenage activist to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images of herself online.

Campaigners plan to present an online petition to Mr Ban and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
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 2013

Stop Stoning Women Now - Global Campaign Toolkit

Publication Author: Naureen Shameem

Read the Toolkit HERE

What is the purpose of this campaign?
Our ultimate goal is to end the brutal practice of stoning. In the short-term - this November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women - we aim to galvanize a critical mass of 10,000 supporters worldwide to sign our petition online on Change.org. The petition functions as a mobilizing platform articulating our analysis of stoning as a persistent form of violence against women and our agenda. Targeting the UN human rights system with stage one, this in turn feeds into our medium-term aim – to successfully advocate for a UN resolution against stoning. In the medium-to-long term, the campaign’s goal is to ban stoning in countries where it still exists in law and criminalize those who engage in this heinous practice worldwide.

In order to achieve medium and long-term aims, we will engage in a separate lobbying strategy at the United Nations. This process will be integrated into the campaign on the ground.

Who is participating?
Key partners of the campaign include: Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML); Women’s UN Report Program & Network (WURN); the Women’s Intercultural Network; Justice for Iran; Research Institute on Women, Peace and Security; Foundation of Solidarity for Justice; BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights; Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre; Solidaritas Perempuan; Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et les Lois Senegal (GREFELS); Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre; Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq; and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE). We are joined by a broad and growing coalition of allies, influential individuals and international and local organizations whose work focuses on violence against women and torture and cruel and inhuman treatment and who champion the campaign and endorse the petition.

This toolkit has been created for the use of allies of the campaign. We hope that it will function as a reference point for all of us as we work to raise awareness and publicize the campaign, broaden the reach of the campaign and develop a critical mass of supporters.

Petition at:

Petitioning Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Secretary General & the OHCHR: End Stoning Now

Petition by  United Kingdom

Stoning is not simply a relic of the past. In fifteen countries around the world, this brutal punishment and form of torture continues to exist in the here and now.

In 2008, a 16 year old from Iraqi Kurdistan named Aziz eloped with a man against her parents’ wishes. Fearful of her life, she sought help from the Department to End Domestic Violence. Yet the Department turned her over to her father, and her family subsequently stoned her to death.

In July 2012, Najiba, 21 was stoned and shot dead in Afghanistan in front of a hundred and fifteen men of the community, cheering the stoning. This horrific incident was filmed by a community member present. Najiba had been accused of moral crimes by local warlords and commanders.

In Sudan, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa were sentenced to death by stoning in 2012, accused of adultery. Following growing Sudanese and international public pressure, they were released on appeal.

And in March 2013, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia, called for a 19 year old Tunisian named Amina to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images online.

These are but a few recent cases of women being terrorized by this heinous practice.

Stoning is a cruel form of torture that causes grievous pain before death. It is a profound violation of fundamental human rights. The practice of stoning disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct, and it often further entails a number of civil and political rights violations that follow on from unfair judicial processes and conditions of detention. Women are more likely to be sentenced to stoning when misogynist interpretations of religious laws and cultural mores form the basis of laws governing sexual relationships and the family.

Let’s stand together and say NO to stoning. Women’s rights cannot be sacrificed to these interpretations. Women have the right to freely participate in and adhere to their own beliefs but today they continue to be silenced by acts of violence.

Stand up against violence against women. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment cannot be tolerated, and the universality of human rights must not be held hostage in the name of ‘culture’ or tradition.

We call on States where stoning still exists in law and in practice to be held accountable to their international human rights obligations by banning stoning in law and in practice and to bring perpetrators to justice.

We strongly urge the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to heed this urgent call by openly denouncing the practice of executions by stoning as one of the most brutal forms of violence against women and as a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

This petition is supported by the following organizations:
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML); Women’s UN Report Program & Network (WURN); Women’s Intercultural Network; Justice for Iran; Research Institute on Women, Peace and Security; Foundation of Solidarity for Justice; Baobab for Women’s Human Rights; Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre; Solidaritas Perempuan; Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et Les Lois Senegal (GREFELS); Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre; and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE).

Please join the campaign against stoning – give us your support and urge the UN to take action on stoning by signing.

The Petition reads:
To: Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Help End Stoning Now

Stoning is not simply a relic of the past. In fifteen countries around the world, this brutal punishment and form of torture continues to exist in the here and now.

In 2008, a 16 year old from Iraqi Kurdistan named Aziz eloped with a man against her parents’ wishes. Fearful of her life, she sought help from the Department to End Domestic Violence. Yet the Department turned her over to her father, and her family subsequently stoned her to death.

In July 2012, Najiba, 21 was stoned and shot dead in Afghanistan in front of a hundred and fifteen men of the community, cheering the stoning. This horrific incident was filmed by a community member present. Najiba had been accused of moral crimes by local warlords and commanders.

In Sudan, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa were sentenced to death by stoning in 2012, accused of adultery. Following growing Sudanese and international public pressure, they were released on appeal.

And in March 2013, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia, called for a 19 year old Tunisian named Amina to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images online.

These are but a few recent cases of women being terrorized by this heinous practice.

Stoning is a cruel form of torture that causes grievous pain before death. It is a profound violation of fundamental human rights. The practice of stoning disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct, and it often further entails a number of civil and political rights violations that follow on from unfair judicial processes and conditions of detention.

Women are more likely to be sentenced to stoning when misogynist interpretations of religious laws and cultural mores form the basis of laws governing sexual relationships and the family.

Let’s stand together and say NO to stoning. Women’s rights cannot be sacrificed to these interpretations. Women have the right to freely participate in and adhere to their own beliefs but today they continue to be silenced by acts of violence.

Stand up against violence against women. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment cannot be tolerated, and the universality of human rights must not be held hostage in the name of ‘culture’ or tradition.

We call on States where stoning still exists in law and in practice to be held accountable to their international human rights obligations by banning stoning in law and in practice and to bring perpetrators to justice.

We strongly urge the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to heed this urgent call by openly denouncing the practice of executions by stoning as one of the most brutal forms of violence against women and as a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

India: 40 years post-MTP Act implementation, unsafe abortions still outnumber safe & legal abortions Print E-mail

  Monday May 6, 2013

‘Unsafe abortions killing a woman every two hours’

By Meena Menon

Unsafe abortions are killing a woman every two hours in this country, according to estimates and calculations correlating data on maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and Sample Registration System (SRS) data by Ipas, India, an international NGO working on increasing access to safe abortion services. The last nationwide MMR data giving details of causes of maternal deaths was in SRS 2001-03, said advisor, policy for Ipas India, Medha Gandhi.

While India’s MMR has declined from 254 per 1,00,000 live births in 2004-06 to 212 in 2007-09, no recent incidence study provides data after 2002-03 on unsafe abortions, said Ms. Gandhi. As per SRS 2001-03, abortion-related deaths contribute to 8 per cent of (around 4,600 deaths annually) of all maternal deaths in India. Ipas’ calculations, using national census and SRS data, indicates that one woman dies of abortion-related causes every two hours.

One of the major reasons is that the Centre is yet to implement the recommendations for amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act as discussed by an expert group it had constituted in 2010. The MTP Act, 1971, enabled women to undergo abortions with specific conditions. It was amended in 2003 to facilitate better implementation and increase access for women, especially in the private health sector.

However, over 40 years after the implementation of a liberal MTP Act, unsafe abortions continue to outnumber safe and legal abortions in India, said Ipas. To correct this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had appointed the expert group to examine the MTP Act and amend it to enable increased access to safe abortion services.

Vinoj Manning, country director, Ipas, India, said abortion deaths are under-reported. A Lancet paper in 2007 said there were 6.4 million abortions, of which 3.6 million or 56 per cent were unsafe. Ipas has calculated based on the latest population and crude birth rates (CBR) which peg the number of induced abortion at 5,007,932, Ms. Gandhi said. The total number of abortions may have reduced due to higher use of contraception, she added.

Three years after the expert group was formed, no decision has been taken to amend the MTP Act based on its recommendations. It is feared that expanding the base of providers for abortion will lead to more sex-selective abortions. However, Ipas said 80-90 per cent abortions in the country take place in the first trimester and sex determination takes place in the second trimester. Women also delay abortion till the second trimester for reasons other than sex selection.

In the absence of safe legal options, women opt for backroom procedures which can be fatal. The proposed amendments to the MTP Act are aimed at increasing the availability of safe and legal abortion services. This was vital, as morbidity from unsafe abortions continues to remain high, Mr. Manning said. While there is no current nationwide data on this, figures from a 2003 national facility survey are illustrative. In terms of accessibility of safe abortion services in the public health system where a MTP is available, only 73 per cent district hospitals in major States had this facility. In Bihar, it was only 35 per cent district hospitals and Uttar Pradesh 48.5, the lowest in the country. On the percentage of health facilities with at least one doctor who received training during the last three years, the situation was grim with only 14.6 per cent in primary health centres being trained.


Collating the research findings on who seeks abortions in India, Ipas referred to a qualitative study in six States and a community-based survey in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in 2003-04. The Abortion Assessment Project in its study found that most abortion seekers are married women who want to limit their families or space their children. Though awareness of family planning was high, women were not always able to use it because of cost, non-availability or lack of permission from husbands apart from fear of side effects. Additionally, women were hesitant to visit public hospitals because of long waiting times or unsympathetic attitude of staff or because doctors insisted on the husband’s signature.

To expand the base of legal providers, the expert group had suggested amendments for mid-level providers. In countries like Bangladesh for instance, field workers are trained to conduct abortions. “We haven’t taken a quantum leap for abortion and the law has not kept pace with technical options. Abortion is still stigmatised,” Mr. Manning pointed out.

The group has recommended increasing the base of legal MTP providers by including medical practitioners with a Bachelor’s degree in Unani, Ayurveda or Homeopathy. Nurses with a three and half year’s degree and registered with the Nursing Council of India, could also be included in the base of legal providers. Since the training required to provide only medical methods of abortion is significantly less than surgical abortions, it has been recommended to distinguish between the two trainings.

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