KABUL, Afghanistan — Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked legislation on Saturday aimed at strengthening provisions for women’s freedoms, arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles and encourage disobedience.
The fierce opposition highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam once kept Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes.
Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of an uproar by religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.
“Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Shaheedzada said.
The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been in effect since 2009, but only by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its potential reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.
The law criminalizes, among other things, child marriage and forced marriage, and bans “baad,” the traditional practice of exchanging girls and women to settle disputes. It makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.
Kofi, who plans to run for president in next year’s elections, said she was disappointed because among those who oppose upgrading the law from presidential decree to legislation passed by parliament are women.
Afghanistan’s parliament has more than 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women.
There has been spotty enforcement of the law as it stands. A United Nations analysis in late 2011 found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women were pursued by the Afghan government. Between March 2010 and March 2011 – the first full Afghan year the decree was in effect – prosecutors filed criminal charges in only 155 cases, or 7 percent of the total number of crimes reported.
The child marriage ban and the idea of protecting female rape victims from prosecution were particularly heated subjects in Saturday’s parliamentary debate, said Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, a conservative lawmaker from Daykundi province.
Neli suggested that removing the custom – common in Afghanistan – of prosecuting raped women for adultery would lead to social chaos, with women freely engaging in extramarital sex safe in the knowledge they could claim rape if caught.
Another lawmaker, Mandavi Abdul Rahmani of Barlkh province, also opposed the law’s rape provision.
“Adultery itself is a crime in Islam, whether it is by force or not,” Rahmani said.
He said the Quran also makes clear that a husband has a right to beat a disobedient wife as a last resort, as long as she is not permanently harmed. “But in this law,” he said, “It says if a man beats his wife at all, he should be jailed for three months to three years.”
Lawmaker Shaheedzada also claimed that the law might encourage disobedience among girls and women, saying it reflected Western values not applicable in Afghanistan.
“Even now in Afghanistan, women are running from their husbands. Girls are running from home,” Shaheedzada said. “Such laws give them these ideas.”
More freedoms for women are one of the most visible – and symbolic – changes in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime. While in power, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islam that put severe curbs on the freedom of women.
For five years, the regime banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. In public, all women were forced wear a head-to-toe burqa, which covers even the face with a mesh panel. Violators were publicly flogged or executed.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, women’s freedoms have improved vastly, but Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative culture, especially in rural areas.
Saturday’s failure of the legislation in parliament reflected the power of religious parties but changed little on the ground, since the decree is still the law of the land, however loosely enforced. Kofi said the parliament decided to send the legislation to committee, and it could come to a vote again later this year.
“We will work on this law,” she said. “We will bring it back.”
Some activists, however, worry about potential changes to the law. Bringing the legislation before parliament also opened it up to being amended, leaving the possibility that conservatives will seek to weaken it by stripping out provisions they dislike – or even vote to repeal it.
“There’s a real risk this has opened a Pandora’s box, that this may have galvanized opposition to this decree by people who in principle oppose greater rights for women,” said Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.
That’s true for lawmaker Rahmani, who said President Hamid Karzai should never have issued the decree and wants it changed, if not repealed.
“We cannot have an Islamic country with basically Western laws,” he said.
(Source: The Huffington Post)
When Saudi Arabia announced three months ago that girls as young as 10-years old would now be allowed to marry, Iran decided to drop the age limit even further.
Iranian Christian news service Mohabat News reports a member of the Iranian Parliament (Majiles) Mohammad Ali Isfenani, “we must regard 9 as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married. To do otherwise would be to contradict and challenge Islamic Sharia law.”
He argues,”Before the revolution girls under 16 were not allowed to marry. Parents determined to get around the law would often tamper with their daughter’s birth certificate. Under the previous constitution, people were legally regarded as adults when they were 18. After the revolution the age at which children were regarded as going through puberty was lowered to 9 for girls and 15 for boys.
Mohabat News reports statistics that show over the past few weeks, over 75 female children under 10 were forced to marry much older men. And in nearly 4000 cases, both the bride and groom were under 14.
The Examiner says according to a news release from the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee, the current civil law, drafted before the revolution in the late 1970’s regarding the legal age of marriage for girls under the age of ten, is considered “un-Islamic and illegal.”
Majiles (Iranian Parliament) is now expected to vote on the proposal to bring civil law more in line with Sharia Law.
The Women’s News Network reports that there are more than 10-million girls under the age of 18 married each year around the world, usually without their consent and to much older men.
Baroness Jenny Tonge, chair of a British parliamentary inquiry looking at the issue of child brides, tells the Women’s News Network, “We decided to look into child marriage because some two, three years ago we did an investigation into maternal mortality.” “We realised that one of the major causes of maternal death is early marriage, and (that) the girls are married so young that their bodies are simply not ready for child birth.” She tells the story of one young girl, “she was an eight-year-old who was married to a 45 to 50-year-old in Yemen, arranged by his family – died three days later after the first intercourse from bleeding. When you hear the stories, it just makes you feel quite sick.”
A report from the British inquiry is expected early this fall.
Anonymous asked: don't you think the relevance of your last post changes if you put it in context with the state of Bangladeshi politics and the recent madness following Savar?
So I assume you’re referring to this stuff:
But to me, there isn’t really any context at all that could change the relevance of a mob literally chanting “One point, one demand, atheists must be hanged”.
Seems like the relevant context here is that there is a growing movement of young people who want to take back political influence from the conservative Muslim movement in Bangladesh and return to the tradition of secular government. These angry mobs are the organized Islamic response to this political opposition. The secular youth have blogs, the conservative Muslims have riots and demands for blood shed.
Clashes between police and Islamist protesters in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka have left at least three people dead and 60 injured.
Up to half a million Hefazat-e Islam supporters gathered in the city, where rioters set fire to shops and vehicles.
The activists are calling for those who insult Islam to face the death penalty.
Later, the police used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to expel thousands of protesters who occupied the city’s main business district.
Thousands of Islamist activists were seen fleeing the Motijheel area, and by the early hours of Monday morning police had taken control of the area, reports the BBC Bengali service reports.
On Sunday, throngs of protesters blocked main roads, isolating Dhaka from other parts of the country.
Chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is greatest!”) and “One point! One demand! Atheists must be hanged”, the activists marched down at least six main roads as they headed for Motijheel, AFP news agency reported.
The area around the city centre’s largest mosque turned into a battleground as police reacted to stone-throwing rioters with tear gas, rubber bullets and truncheons.
Three people were killed, the BBC Bengali service reported, with at least one dying of gunshot wounds. Other agencies reported the death toll had risen to at least 10, with several casualties sustaining gunshot wounds to the head.
Reports spoke of some 60 people being injured, including two local TV journalists.
Hefazat-e Islam wants greater segregation of men and women, as well as the imposition of stricter Islamic education.
The group’s opposition to a national development policy for women has angered women’s groups.
Hefajat-e-Islam draws its strength from the country’s madrassahs, or religious schools.
But the government, which describes Bangladesh as a secular democracy, has rejected the group’s demand for a new law on blasphemy.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said current legislation was adequate.
A Hefajat-e-Islam activist, Hossain Soliman Abdullah, said the main aim of the protest was to press for the implementation of a 13-point demand inspired by the Koran.
Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper reports that the group hired at least 3,000 vehicles, including buses, lorries and minibuses to bring demonstrators into the capital, while others travelled there by train.
On Friday, Sheikh Hasina said the government had already met many of the group’s demands.
“Many of these have already been implemented while some are in the process,” she was quoted as telling the Daily Star.
She said the government had already arrested four bloggers for making “derogatory comments” against the Prophet Muhammad and they would be punished if found guilty.
Muslims make up nearly 90% of the country’s population with the rest mostly Hindus.
Islam’s “fringe element” at it again.
The whereabouts of Moroccan student Imad Eddin Habib, 22, are unknown since yesterday, April 29 in the evening. A few days ago, plainclothes policemen interrogated his father at his workplace. They wanted to know whether Imad was supported by a foreign organization, what his goals and motives were… Yesterday, Apr 29, they broke into an address that is mentioned on the young man’s ID—only to find out that he doesn’t live there anymore. Informed that he was a wanted individual, the Casablanca paramedical student decided to go underground. It will probably not take long before he resurfaces. Yet, that might be long enough for a solidarity campaign to start.
Imad Eddin Habib is not a criminal—at least not under international law and international treaties on freedom of speech and conscience. The reason why the Moroccan police is after him, is that he’s an outspoken atheist.
In the Islamic kingdom of Morocco, atheism itself is not a criminal offense. “Shaking the Muslim’s faith” is. Under this vague designation, anyone openly criticizing Islam or promoting any other religion can be condemned to a prison term ranging from 6 months to 3 years (Christian missionaries are regularly expelled from the kingdom in virtue of this article.) In other words: when you live in Morocco, you can think whatever you want of religion, but you better keep it for yourself.
Saudi Arabia hopes to put imprisoned Al-Qaeda militants on the right path and make them drop their thoughts of jihad by offering them spa treatments, exercise and counseling at a new luxurious rehabilitation facility in the capital, Riyadh.
As part of the program de-radicalization program, inmates will be able to relax in the center in between sessions with counselor and talks about religion, reports AFP.
The Riyadh rehab center is designed to accommodate 228 prisoners: 19 inmates in each of the facility’s 12 buildings.
The facility spreads over an area equivalent to around 10 football pitches (over 10 hectares) and includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and a television hall. The prisoners will also have access to special suites where they can spend time with visiting family members. Besides that, as a bonus for good behavior, they could get a two-day break with their wives[…]
[…]Another similar facility has already been opened in the western port city of Jeddah, while three more are planned for different parts of the kingdom.
The Riyadh center though is the first one to offer jailed Al-Qaeda members – or the “deviant group,” as they are referred to by the country’s authorities – a lap of luxury as a boost to reconsider their beliefs.
It is planned that during the day prisoners will attend seminars on religious affairs.
“In order to fight terrorism, we must give them an intellectual and psychological balance… through dialogue and persuasion,” said the director of the rehabilitation centers, Said al-Bishi.
So far, some 2,336 Al-Qaeda prisoners have been through Saudi rehabilitation schemes, he said. No more than 10 per cent of former inmates rejoin extremist groups, Bishi noted, adding that such proportion is “encouraging.”
However, the program does have its opponents, especially given that some there have been some high-profile returns to the ranks of jihad. For instance, Saeed al-Shehri - a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who went through a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia - upon his release traveled to Yemen and became deputy leader of Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.
Liberals are particularly unhappy with the religious content of the program, saying that it draws on an ultra-conservative version of Islam – which not so different from Al-Qaeda’s own.
Three men were forcibly ejected from a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia amid concerns they were ‘too handsome’ for women to resist.
Religious police in the conservative Islamic kingdom removed the trio, all from the United Arab Emirates, from the Jenadrivah Heritage and Culture Festival in Riyadh on Sunday.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices in Saudi - where there are strict rules governing interaction between men and women who aren’t related - had the men deported back to Abu Dhabi in case women should ‘fall for them’…
At the time, the religious police were quoted, “NOO! IT IS TOO SEXY!!! TOO SEXY!!”
(Ok, I made that last part up)