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Iraqis Draft Law Allowing 9 Year Old “Women” to Marry

From AOL News:


BAGHDAD (AP) — A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could open the door to girls as young as nine getting married and would require wives to submit to sex on their husband’s whim, provoking outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women’s rights.

The measure, aimed at creating different laws for Iraq’s majority Shiite population, could further fray the country’s divisions amid some of the worst bloodshed since the sectarian fighting that nearly ripped the country apart after the U.S.-led invasion. It also comes as more and more children under 18 get married in the country.

“That law represents a crime against humanity and childhood,” prominent Iraqi human rights activist Hana Adwar told The Associated Press. “Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering.
Iraqi law now sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval. Girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian’s approval.

The proposed new measure, known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite imam. Iraq’s Justice Ministry late last year introduced the draft measure to the Cabinet, which approved it last month despite strong opposition by rights groups and activists.

The draft law does not set a minimum age for marriage. Instead, it mentions an age in a section on divorce, setting rules for divorces of girls who have reached the age of 9 years in the lunar Islamic calendar. It also says that’s the age girls reach puberty. Since the Islamic calendar year is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, that would be the equivalent of 8 years and 8 months old. The bill makes the father the only parent with the right to accept or refuse the marriage proposal.

Critics of the bill believe that its authors slipped the age into the divorce section as a backhanded way to allow marriages of girls that young. Already, government statistics show that nearly 25 percent of marriages in Iraq involved someone under the age of 18 in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1997. Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul-Zahra Hendawi said the practice of underage marriage is particularly prevalent in rural areas and some provinces where illiteracy is high.

Also under the proposed measure, a husband can have sex with his wife regardless of her consent. The bill also prevents women from leaving the house without their husband’s permission, would restrict women’s rights in matters of parental custody after divorce and make it easier for men to take multiple wives.

Parliament must still ratify the bill before it becomes law. That is unlikely to happen before parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30, though the Cabinet support suggests it remains a priority for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s administration. Al-Maliki is widely expected to seek a third term.

Baghdad-based analyst Hadi Jalo suggested that election campaigning might be behind the proposal.

“Some influential Shiite politicians have the impression that they should do their best to make any achievement that would end the injustice that had been done against the Shiites in the past,” Jalo said.

The formerly repressed Shiite majority came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime. Since then, Shiite religious and political leaders have encouraged followers to pour in millions into streets for religious rituals, a show of their strength.

Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari, a Shiite, has brushed off the criticism of the bill. His office introduced a companion bill that calls for the establishment of special Shiite courts that would be tied to the sect’s religious leadership.

Al-Shimmari insists that the bill is designed to end injustices faced by Iraqi women in past decades, and that it could help prevent illicit child marriage outside established legal systems.

“By introducing this draft law, we want to limit or prevent such practices,” al-Shimmari said.

But Sunni female lawmaker Likaa Wardi believes it violates women’s and children’s rights and creates divisions in society.

“The Jaffari law will pave the way to the establishments of courts for Shiites only, and this will force others sects to form their own courts. This move will widen the rift among the Iraqi people,” Wardi said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also strongly criticized the law this week.
“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement. “This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”
It is unclear how much support the bill enjoys among Iraqi Shiites, but Jalo, the analyst, believes that it would face opposition from secular members of the sect.

Qais Raheem, a Shiite government employee living in eastern Baghdad, said the draft bill contradicts the principles of a modern society.

“The government officials have come up with this backward law instead of combating corruption and terrorism,” said Raheem who has four children, including two teenage girls. “This law legalizes the rape and we should all reject it.”

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Marriage | , , , | Leave a comment

Pakistan’s Swat Valley Women Fight Back with Jirga

I love this. Women are using technology – and the traditional system – to persist in seeking justice for women who are often little more than slaves to their husband.

From BBC News:


Women in Pakistan’s Swat valley are making history, and perhaps some powerful enemies, by convening an all-female jirga, a forum for resolving disputes usually reserved for men. Some readers may find details of this report by the BBC’s Orla Guerin disturbing.

Tahira was denied justice in life, but she continues to plead for it in death – thanks to a grainy recording on a mobile phone.

As she lay dying last year the young Pakistan wife and mother made a statement for use in court.

In the shaky amateur video, she named her tormentors, and said they should burn like she did.

Tahira was married off at the age of 12 and died last year following a suspected acid attack

Tahira’s flesh was singed on 35% of her body, following a suspected acid attack. Her speech was laboured and her voice was hoarse, but she was determined to give her account of the attack, even as her flesh was falling off her bones.

“I told her you must speak up and tell us what happened,” her mother Jan Bano said, dabbed her tears with her white headscarf. “And she was talking until her last breath.”

Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid. Her mother plans to appeal against that verdict, with help from a new ally – Pakistan’s first female jirga.

Under the traditional – and controversial – jirga system, elders gather to settle disputes. Until now this parallel justice system has been men-only, and rulings have often discriminated against women. The new all-women jirga, which has about 25 members, aims to deliver its own brand of justice.

It has been established in an unlikely setting – the scenic but conservative Swat valley, formerly under the control of the Pakistan Taliban. We sat in on one of its sessions in a sparsely furnished front room. Women crowded in, sitting in a circle on the floor, many with children at their feet. Most wore headscarves, and a few were concealed in burqas.

Probing injustice
For more than an hour they discussed a land dispute, problems with the water supply, unpaid salaries, and murder. The only man in the room was a local lawyer, Suhail Sultan. He was giving legal advice to jirga members including Jan Bano who he represents.

“In your case the police is the bad guy,” he told her. “They are the biggest enemy. ” He claims the police were bribed by the accused, and were reluctant to investigate the case properly.

The jirga tackled land disputes, water supplies, and murder

The jirga is making history, and perhaps making enemies. In Swat, as in many parts of Pakistan, men make the key decisions – like whether or not their daughters go to school, when they marry, and who they marry. And oppression starts early. Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.

“Our society is a male-dominated society, and our men treat our women like slaves,” said the jirga founder, Tabassum Adnan. “They don’t give them their rights and they consider them their property. Our society doesn’t think we have the right to live our own lives.”

This chatty social activist, and mother of four, knows that challenging culture and tradition comes with risks. “Maybe I could be killed,” she said, “anything could happen. But I have to fight. I am not going to stop.”

They glued [my daughter’s] mouth and eyes closed. Just her face was left, the rest was flesh and broken bones”

Taj Mehal
As we spoke in a sun-baked courtyard Tabassum got a disturbing phone call. “I have just been told that the body of another girl has been found, ” she said. ” Her husband shot her.” She plans to investigate the case, and push the authorities to act.

“Before my jirga women have always been ignored by the police and by justice, but not now. My jirga has done a lot for women,” she said.

There was agreement from Taj Mehal, a bereaved mother with a careworn face, sitting across the courtyard on a woven bed.

Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.

“They broke her arm in three places, and they strangled her,” she told me, putting her hands to her own throat to mimic the action. “They broke her collarbone. They glued her mouth and eyes closed. Just her face was left, the rest was flesh and broken bones.”

She speaks of her daughter’s suffering with a steady voice, but grief is wrapped around her, like a heavy shawl.

“When I looked at her, it was like a piece was pulled out of my heart,” she said. “I was turned to stone. I see her face in front of my eyes. I miss her laughter.”

Women are a rare sight on the streets of Mingora
Nurina’s husband, and his parents, have now been charged with her murder, but her mother says that initially the courts took no interest.

“Whenever we brought applications to the judge he would tear them up and throw them away,” she said. “Now our voice is being heard, because of the jirga. Now we will get justice. Before the jirga husbands could do whatever they wanted to their wives.”

Women are little seen or heard on the bustling streets of Mingora, the biggest city in Swat. Rickshaw taxis dart past small shops selling medicines, and hardware supplies.

There are stalls weighed down with mangoes, and vendors dropping dough into boiling oil to make sugar-laden treats. Most of the shoppers are men.

‘No justice’ at jirgas
When we asked some of the local men their views on the women’s jirga, the results were surprising. Most backed the women.

“It’s a very good thing,” said one fruit seller, “women should know about their rights like men do, and they should be given their rights.”

Another said: “The jirga is good because now finally women have someone to champion their cause.”

The response from the local male jirga was less surprising. They were dismissive, saying the women have no power to enforce their decisions.

Most local men who spoke to the BBC expressed support for the women’s initiative

That view was echoed by the prominent Pakistani human rights activist Tahira Abdullah. “I don’t see it as more than a gimmick,” she said. “Who is going to listen to these women? The men with the Kalashnikovs? The Taliban who are anti-women? The patriarchal culture that we have?”

Ms Abdullah wants jirgas stopped whether male or female. “The jirga system is totally illegal, and has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It can never be just. There are several extremely notorious cases where we have noticed that women do not get justice from jirgas, neither do non-Muslims.”

One of those cases took place last year in a remote region of northern Pakistan where a jirga allegedly ordered the killing of five women – and two men – for defying local customs by singing and dancing together at a wedding.

And there are regular reports of jirgas decreeing that women and young girls be handed over from one family to another to settle disputes.

But for some, like Jan Bano, the women’s jirga is bringing hope. Every day she climbs a steep hill to visit Tahira’s grave, and pray for the daughter whose voice has still not her heard. Her video recording was not played in court.

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Pakistan, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Yemeni Girl Escapes Child Marriage

This little girl is lucky; she has a sympathetic uncle who protected her when her own mother, twice, tried to sell her into marriage.

She is an amazingly articulate and resourceful little girl. I look forward to seeing the woman she grows into, safe under her uncle’s care. I love it that he convinced one prospective husband that she was not modest enough to be his bride 🙂

This is from AOL/Huffpost

In a bone-chilling three minutes, a young girl who evaded child marriage tells the world that she would “rather die,” than be forced to undergo an arranged marriage.

After learning that her parents had plans to marry her off to a wealthy suitor, brave Nada al-Ahdal of Yemen risked her life and fled to the refuge of her uncle. The precocious little girl, who saw how her teenage aunt took her own life after being abused in an arranged marriage, shared in a harrowing translated video the cruelty of the child bride practice.

“I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?,” Nada asks. “I’m better off dead. I’d rather die [than be forced into a marriage].”

According to NOW News, Nada’s uncle, Abdel Salam al-Ahdal, a montage and graphics technician at a TV station, has protected his niece from being married off twice. Nada’s parents first accepted an offer from a wealthy expatriate, but al-Ahdel intervened and told the prospective groom that Nada was not nearly modest enough for him, in order to “scare him off.”

“When I heard about the groom, I panicked,” he told NOW. “Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and 3 months. I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed.”

When Nada’s mother tried once again to marry off her daughter against her will, Nada — despite threats that she could be killed — fled to her uncle’s once more, and filed a complaint with the police. She’ll now be living with al-Ahdal permanently.

But such forced marriages, like Nada’s, are on the rise across the globe.

According to a World Vision study released in March, more child brides are being led into arranged marriages due to an increase in global poverty and crises. Parents who live in fear of natural disasters, political instability and financial ruin look to arranged marriages as a way to save their struggling families.

Every day, 39,000 girls, younger than 18, will marry, according to the World Health Organization.

“Women have no rights to give an opinion in the family,” Humaiya, a 16-year-old from Bangladesh who managed to escape marriage, told The Huffington Post in March. “My father didn’t listen.”

Nada, whose video on YouTube has already garnered more than 2 million hits, hopes that the world will hear her message loud and clear.

“They have killed our dreams. They have killed everything inside us,” Nada said in the video. “This is no upbringing. This is criminal, simply criminal.”

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior | , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan: Such Laws Give Women Ideas . . .

Law Protecting Afghanistan Women Blocked By Conservatives

By KAY JOHNSON 05/18/13 08:03 AM ET EDT AP


KABUL, Afghanistan — Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked a law on Saturday that aims to protect women’s freedoms, with some arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles or encourage women to have sex outside of marriage.

The failure highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam 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 fierce opposition from 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 actually been in effect since 2009 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 reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.

Among the law’s provisions are criminalizing child marriage and banning “baad,” the traditional practice of selling and buying women to settle disputes. It also criminalizes domestic violence and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.

“We want to change this decree as a law and get the vote of parliamentarian for this law,” said Kofi, who is herself running for president in next year’s elections. “Unfortunately, there were some conservative elements who are opposing this law. What I am disappointed at is because there were also women who were opposing this law.”

Afghanistan’s parliament has more than 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women.

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.

Lawmaker Shaheedzada also claimed that the law might encourage promiscuity 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.”

Freedoms for women are one of the most visible – and symbolic – changes in Afghanistan since 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime. Aside from their support for al-Qaida leaders, the Taliban are probably most notorious for their harsh treatment of women under their severe interpretation of Islamic law.

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 veil, which covers even the face with a mesh panel. Violators were publicly flogged or executed. Freeing women from such draconian laws lent a moral air to the Afghan war.

Since then, women’s freedoms have improved vastly, but Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative culture, especially in rural areas.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed in Kabul.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Women's Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Child Marriage Increases Due to Financial Crisis

I have mixed feelings about child marriage. On one hand, girls are so immature in their teen years, and their bodies are not fully formed for child bearing. On the other hand, they are physically mature, and the hormones are raging.

A good friend married off her daughter at fifteen. She was actually “married” by contract at fourteen, but the families waited for the official marriage until she was fifteen. I was heartsick, but the girl herself was delighted. She liked the man she was marrying. She had no fears, no concerns. She started having babies – and she continued going to school, through university. I know it can work; I have seen it.

On the other hand, selling off a thirteen year old to a man she has never met, especially an OLD man, fills me with disgust. It’s a whole different situation.

Neither is it such a good thing, in our own culture, to have fourteen year old girls raising their babies with no husband around to be a father to the child. We all have some problems to face working out mating.

This is an excerpt from an article I found on Huffpost for International Women’s Day. You can read the whole article here.


Child Marriage On Rise As Global Crises Increase, New Study Says

Jessica Prois

Half of all girls living in the world’s 51 least-developed countries have been married before the age of 18, according to the U.N. The World Vision study, released to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, found that such marriages are on the rise due to an increase in global poverty and crises. Researchers highlighted that parents living in areas prone to political instability or natural disasters are more likely to marry off their daughters at a young age, largely due to fear from these crises. Children living in these areas, such as South Sudan or Somalia, are also more likely to be forced into child marriage, the study said.

Erica Hall, Child Rights Policy director at World Vision, explained that the root causes of child marriage — poverty and gender inequality — are being exacerbated.

“Worldwide, there are increases in security issues and increases in natural disasters linked to global warming,” Hall said. She cited the recent humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region of North Africa and Somalia due to drought and political unrest as an example in which many girls often quit school and are sent to work as domestic workers or are married, to reduce the burden on their families.

For Bangladeshi families such as Humaiya’s, drought and lack of food are the primary reasons to discharge a young girl from her home. One of the most unjust impacts of this is education inequality. World Vision’s research in Bangaldesh revealed that girls who were unable to attend school due to disruptions from natural disasters were more likely to marry early.

Humaiya speaks out about child rights issues such as early marriage and became an advocate through World Vision, which introduced Humaiya to HuffPost. She said she knows that her ongoing education in Bangladesh is rare. Some 66 percent of girls in Bangladesh are married before age 18, according to World Vision. Humaiya works to educate her peers in her village and speaks to government leaders, asking them to do more to stem child marriage and provide greater education opportunities.

But Humaiya told The Huffington Post that she has seen many of her friends married off, and described how disconnected she feels from the girls she has been friends with for five or more years.

“Now they are good cooks,” she said. “They are like my mother, even though we are the same age. I don’t know how to manage a family, but they know.”

She explained that her mother was 16 when she was forced to get married, and lost a son by the time she was 18 years old.

In Bangladesh, the law is that girls can’t marry until they’re 18 and boys can’t marry until they’re 21. But the rules are not implemented, Hall said.

“The law is not the problem,” she pointed out. “You have to have political will to do that and capacity and understanding among law enforcement. The goal is to get governments to enforce these things, and — this is such an NGO word — but it has to be a holistic approach.”

Hall pointed out that requiring marriage registration and working on a grassroots community level is key to creating systemic change. She cited examples such as the Grandmother’s Project in southern Senegal, a nonprofit partner of World Vision that focuses on reducing early marriage, female genital mutilation and early pregnancy by creating an intergenerational dialogue about how to shift the gender-role paradigm.

“That’s been successful — you know how grandmothers are — in getting an idea like that across that it doesn’t have to be part of the tradition,” Hall said.

World Vision also works with religious leaders to address the practice of child marriage.

“There is a strong foundation in religion that children should be protected and they don’t want girls dying in childbirth and these leaders say, ‘This is a tenet of our faith and this is why we are going to start speaking out against it,'” Hall explained.

The issue of child marriage has gained momentum outside of the NGO world as well. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last October a public-private initiative that focuses on ending child marriage by increasing education opportunities, providing training among officials and tracking every country’s legal minimum age of marriage — in particular in Humaiya’s home country of Bangladesh.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , | 2 Comments