Afghan Girl Tortured by In-laws for Resisting Prostitution

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Photo courtesy Guardian UK

Sahar Gul is a 15-year-old girl who was brutally beaten, burned, cut, starved, enslaved, and tortured by her in-laws for months in the basement of their home. The perpetrators of these heinous acts needs to be brought to justice not only for Sahar Gul, but also for other Afghans who are subjected to brutal violence.

A UN report issued in November found that a 2009 law meant to protect Afghan women from a host of abusive practices, including rape, forced marriage and the trading of women to settle disputes, was being undermined by sporadic enforcement.

The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was passed in August 2009 and had raised hopes among women’s rights activists that Afghan women would get to fight back against abuses that had been ignored under Taliban rule. The law criminalised many abuses for the first time, including domestic violence, child marriage, driving a woman to resort to suicide, as well as the buying and selling of women.

Yet the report found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women were pursued by the Afghan government.

Between March 2010 and March 2011, prosecutors opened 594 investigations into crimes under the law – only 26% of the 2,299 incidents registered by the Afghan human rights commission, the UN report said. Prosecutors filed indictments in only 155 cases, or 7% of the total number of crimes reported.

Here’s what you can do.

Please join me in signing this petition to President Karzai and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for immediate action. This petition is a resounding plea from concerned persons around the world seeking justice on behalf of fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul who was brutally tortured and mutilated by her Afghan in-laws.

Let’s get some signatures on this petition. Sign the petition here 

To read more about this story please visit The Guardian UK.

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Afghan Women’s Political Power Revoked

Women’s rights in Afghanistan take yet another hit, as conservative male parliamentarians secretly remove a legal requirement that states women make up at least a quarter of all provincial elections.

According to Reuters, the change took place in mid-May but was only discovered by women parliamentarians a few days ago.

Hundreds of Afghan women

Photo by 24piecescholars.net

Activists said it could also reduce the number of women serving in parliament’s upper house, as most women are elected there via their role as elected provincial officials.

“In negotiations you don’t gain anything unless you also give something up,” said prominent women’s rights activist and MP Farkhunda Naderi.

The action has sparked fears among women’s rights activists that President Hamid Karzai’s government is increasingly willing to trade away their hard fought gains to placate the Taliban as part of attempts to coax them to the peace table.

Women entered Afghanistan’s male-only political arena in 2001 soon after the overthrow of the Taliban regime by a U.S. led invasion.

At least a quarter of the seats in some 400 districts and 34 provincial councils had been set aside for women.

Karzai appointed 17 out of 28 women in the upper house, the remaining 11 must be chosen from among women sitting on district and provincial councils, but those positions are now under a cloud.

On May 22, the change was approved by parliament’s lower house, the Wolesi Jirga.

“(They) removed it without informing us. We trusted that the law we signed off on was the same as previous drafts,” said parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi.

The law still needs approval from the upper house and Karzai before being passed into law.

Critics of the change told Reuters its removal will not only affect women’s ability to serve in the upper house, but also do away with more than 100 seats in local government bodies nationwide that were previously guaranteed to women.

“Women are not in the position to win votes in this country based on popular vote alone, this amendment is worrisome  they’ll lose their voice,” said Noor Mohammad, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.

Conservative male parliamentarians backing the change said the concept of granting rights based on their gender was unconstitutional.

“It’s undemocratic to grant a seat to a woman even though a man had more votes, simply because the law favors her,” said Qazi Nasir Ahmad Hanafi, head of the legislative commission.

This story was originally published by Reuters.

(Edited by Gillian Felix)

Women’s Right To Property in Mongolia

Women’s right to property in Mongolia is a crucial part of growing an economy and a country. In Mongolia women now hold approximately 40 percent of land titles, an increase of 5 per cent since 2011.

Women's Right to Property in Mongolia

Photo by MCC.gov

Baigalmaa Enebish of Erdenet, Mongolia is a single mother, and recently lived in a rented room in someone else’s home. She had no stable income and few employment opportunities.

Baigalmaa noticed that there were many women around her who were in the same situation, and invited them to join a group she formed called the Neighbors’ Friendship Cooperative to help solve its members’ housing problem.

“My desire to improve the living conditions of those who are in a similar condition as me motivated me to organize this cooperative,” said Baigalmaa, who has been the cooperative head since 2008.

With Baigalmaa’s help, the cooperative received several grants from international donors to build a fence, extend the electricity grid and dig wells. They wanted to apply for a loan from the Asian Coalition for Housing Project, but a lack of collateral prevented them from doing so. However a Property Rights Project contractor from MCA-Mongolia Rights informed them that they could own land via the MCA Mongolia Property Rights Project.

The project works to increase women’s awareness of the importance and benefits of owning land. TheMillennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) invested $15.7 million to improve the efficiency, accuracy and accessibility of the land privatization and property registration process to make it easier, faster and more cost-effective for Mongolian citizens to register and transfer land.

Through coordinated public outreach, project contractors, educate women on the value of land and how to use it as a valuable asset, including as collateral for bank loans.

In less than one month Baigalmaa acquired land.

“Previously, privatizing land seemed like a difficult goal to achieve, since we heard it’s a long and tedious process with heavy bureaucracy,” said Baigalmaa.

Normally the process would take 4-5 months, thanks to the assistance provided by the project the process was quicker.

“We knew very little about the whole complicated procedure. We were very happy when the contractor came and offered us assistance.” said Baigalmaa.

Under Baigalmaa’s leadership, other members of the cooperative received land titles through the project. With land as collateral, they finally received a housing loan that they are investing in building six houses and providing four gers (traditional dwellings) to other cooperative members.

“The contractor familiarized us with the process, collected our relevant materials, and soon we all received our land ownership certificates, which didn’t take any time and expense from our side. This was the helping hand that people like us needed.”  Baigalmaa added.

Looking toward the future the cooperative also plans to grow vegetables for household use. If they produce more than they need, they will sell the surplus.

10,000 people have registered their land, benefiting from a one-stop shop that saves them time and money. Land ownership is helping both men and women invest in their land and have greater access to economic opportunities.

Original article on: http://www.mcc.gov/

Afghanistan’s First Female Mayor – Part II

Plain Talk Bad Manners have moved to a new domain http://www.plaintalkbm.com/. Please stop on by, look around and subscribe for free so you don’t miss any new articles. Here is the article for today Afghanistan’s First Female Mayor -Part II

As usual I’d love to hear from you and thank you for your support.

Gillian

Profile: Afghanistan’s First Female Mayor

In honor of March 8 International Women’s Day. I thought I’d profile Afghanistan’s first ever female mayor. In a country where it is impossible for a woman to hold any stature, this is a HUGE step for the remote Afghan town of Nili. Could the election of the country’s first female mayor be a change in attitude towards women in the Middle East?? Will it’s neighbors follow suit? We can only hope.

Photo Courtesy Mtholyoke.edu

Photo Courtesy Mtholyoke.edu

Meet Azra Jafari, the 34-year-old mother and Mayor of Nili. “Mr. Mayor” as she is called as a sign of respect, lives on a salary of $76 a month while raising her 4-year-old daughter. She grew up in Ghor province, where the population is poor and mainly Shia Hazara. (Source: Guardian UK)

Married to an Afghan film-maker, she is currently the subject of a documentary series called Afghanistan at Work, the sequel to Kabul: A City at Work, which is about ordinary working Afghans doing extraordinary things at a time of war.

Like thousands of Afghans, Jafari fled the civil war in the early 1990s, taking refuge in Iran, where she ran a school for Afghan refugee children. She moved back to Afghanistan in September 2001 and joined the Emergency Loya Jirga in Kabul – the consultative council that dates back three centuries – where she organized a seminar for female members and participated in the election process that ultimately led to President Karzai becoming the new leader of Afghanistan.

For one year she served as the Deputy Director of the Equal Rights Association, based in Kabul, before she enrolled in the Institute of Health Science. In 2007, she graduated with a concentration of midwifery.

Before President Karzai declared her the country’s first female mayor in 2008, she headed the gender and rights division of Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA, an independent, non-governmental organization that focuses on peace building, women’s empowerment, and human rights in Middle Asia. (Source: Diplomat courier)

Jafari has written two books: The Making of the New Constitution of Afghanistan, published in 2003 and I am a Working Woman, published in 2008.

Her dress-code has been criticized but she has not conformed to the traditional.

“I like to dress formally,” she explained. “This means clothes tend to be more fitted and a bit tighter, but this is the way formal, professional people dress. Not traditional loose, wide clothing and people need to accept this.”

She believes her dress code has nothing to do with who she is or her ability to get the job done properly.

“What I’ve really learned is that it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman, what matters is that you do your work properly and you work hard and how seriously you take your responsibilities,” she said.

The Mayor is confident that she has influenced the way younger women think.

“I’m like a template for women,” Jafari said.

The possibilities are endless when women and girls are given a chance. Hopefully one day it will be acceptable for the Afghan people to call her Mrs. Mayor. 

Little Progress Is Better Than No Progress

This week I am out of the country but I wanted to keep the momentum going while I’m away.

Small positive steps are happening in India to put an end to child marriage. Read more here: Why does this 13-year-old girl’s parents want her to be married despite India’s laws?

Thanks for reading and see you next week.

Cheers,

Gillian Felix

Girl Rising: The New Power of the World’s Young Women

The UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, has been blogging for the Huffington Post  from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he has been working to put global education at the top of the agenda.

In his series of blogs, entitled “Girl Rising: 2013 and the New Power of the World’s Young Women”, he argues that this year will see young women across the globe begin to assert their rights more vocally than ever before.

I am MalalaIn the wake of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai and the exposure of the dangers still faced by young women in India, women are standing up and rejecting long-accepted rules and conventions, he says. The call for girls’ education is paramount in this movement. Read Gordon’s blogs now to find out about the grassroots movements across the world which are making female education this year’s ‘hot topic.’

And don’t forget to forward this post with your friends and share the A World At School website on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word as we continue to campaign this year against child labor and child marriage – and for A World at School.

Tell them that Child + Teacher = Hope∞.
Thank you,
The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education

Morocco: Rapist Go Free If They Marry Their Victim

According to Moroccan law, a paragraph in Article 475 of the penal code allows those convicted of “corruption” or “kidnapping” of a minor to go free if they marry their victim. The practice has been encouraged by judges to spare the family from shame.

On March 10, 2012, 16-year-old rape victim Amina Filali drank rat poison after being forced to marry the man who raped her.

Moroccan women demonstrate for change

Moroccan women’s groups are hoping that the government will reform the law that allows rapists to avoid charges if they marry their victims.

“I think this is a good step and hopefully it won’t just be lip service but actual change,” said Amal Boujani, 28.

For Moroccan women, the debate over women’s rights has become a major concern over the past year.

“Changing this article is a good thing but it doesn’t meet all of our demands,” said Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. “The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn’t protect women against violence.”

Fouzia Assouli, president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights explains that the code only penalizes violence against women from a moral standpoint and not because it is just violence.

“The law doesn’t recognize certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalizes other normal behavior like sex outside of marriage between adults,” she added.

Recent government statistics reported that 50 percent of attacks against women occur within conjugal relations.

“In 550 cases of the corruption of minors between 2009 and 2010, only seven were married under Article 475 of the penal code, the rest were pursued by justice,” said Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.

Anti-rape demonstrations have been staged in the largest cities, attended mainly by women. The U.N. office in Morocco declared that marriage laws should be modernized, and the left-wing Socialist Union of Popular Forces party has petitioned for a parliamentary investigation mandated to recommend amendments.

Girls Not Brides. The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage

The first International Day of the Girl was recognized on October 11, 2012. Because we spoke as one, world leaders woke up to the need to end child marriage.

New campaign poster for Child Bride awareness.

New campaign poster for Child Bride awareness.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said we should let “girls be girls, not brides” and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that she wants to see an end to child marriage in a generation. In Malawi, the government has committed to changing minimum age of marriage laws.

Together, we can help girls live healthier, more prosperous lives. There is no doubt the need to tackle child marriage is urgent. The UN has warned that if we do nothing to address child marriage, 142 million girls will marry as children by 2020.

Girls Not Brides members are working to ensure this will not be the case. You can explore their work at  Girls Not Brides website www.GirlsNotBrides.org.

If you’re inspired, donate to their work via Catapult, a new fundraising platform dedicated to investing in women and girls around the world. For instance, you can support their member Girls Empowerment Network Malawi’s work to help girls stand up to their elders and say no to child marriage.

Bride Kidnapping Debates Divides a Region

Story by Abdujalil Abdurasulov, BBC News, Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament is poised to vote on legislation that would toughen the penalty for bride kidnapping.

The bill has caused heated debate, splitting parliament and society into those who defend it as a tradition and those who see it as a violent crime.

The practice of bride kidnapping is widespread in Kyrgyzstan. According to the ombudsman’s office, some 8,000 girls are kidnapped for forced marriage every year across the country.

The Women’s Support Centre (WSC) in Bishkek puts that figure even higher at almost 12,000 cases a year. Most of these cases happen in poor and rural areas.

WSC is part of the network that campaigns against bride kidnapping. Zabila Matayeva, 38, became a WSC volunteer last year after a family tragedy. Her sister, Cholpon Matayeva, was kidnapped for marriage by a husband who beat her frequently.

When she finally demanded a divorce after a decade of marriage, he stabbed her to death. He has been jailed for 19 years.

Cholpon thought her life would end if she left the [groom’s] house – this would bring shame on her and the family. She would need to leave the village.

Zabila Matayeva, Sister of bride-kidnapping victim Cholpon barely knew her husband when he abducted her at the age of 19. She did not want to marry him but like many other women, she was afraid to leave him out of shame. So she stayed.

“It’s like a law, if you are kidnapped then you must stay,” Zabila said. “[Cholpon] faced enormous psychological pressure from the groom’s relatives. They kept telling her that they too had been kidnapped, and [that] entering the house with tears leads to a happy life afterwards.

In many cases, the abducted woman is forced to stay for a first night that is effectively rape. After that, most women agree to get married, because otherwise they face huge stigma. If they decide to leave they can be treated as damaged goods, unable to remarry.

Campaign groups working to promote awareness of the law

Campaign groups working to promote awareness of the law

Over the past year, activists from various women’s organisations have united in “Campaign 155”, named after the criminal code article on bride kidnapping.

They have held bike rides, street sketches, seminars and other activities to draw attention to the current legislation.

They bring cases like Cholpon’s to argue that no marriage can be happy if it starts from violence.

‘Our tradition’

Under the existing law, a man faces a fine or maximum of three years in prison for abducting a woman for marriage against her will. The new bill proposes increasing that to seven years, after an initial suggestion to make it 10 years.

“It is outrageous,” says Rimma Sultanova from WSC. “The punishment for cattle-stealing is 11 years and for abducting a girl is maximum three years.”

Ainuru Altybayeva, an MP who initiated the bill, says very few cases get to trial under the current legislation.

The main reason is that legal action starts only after a victim files a suit. However, this rarely happens because victims of bride kidnapping do not generally want to draw attention to themselves.

But if the changes are adopted then bride kidnapping will be categorised as a grave offence.

“This will mean that the state in the face of prosecutors and law-enforcement bodies can initiate legal action themselves without waiting for the victim’s lawsuit,” Mrs Altybayeva explained.

Not all legislators support the bill though. Some claim that it goes against Kyrgyz tradition and may have serious implications for society.

“This is a tradition that existed and will exist no matter what law you adopt” Bobek Bishkek resident

“We will put all men in Kyrgyzstan in prison if we increase the punishment for bride kidnapping,” said MP Kojobek Ryspaev, during a discussion of the bill at a parliamentary session earlier this year.

Opponents of the changes claim bride kidnapping plays an important role in society.

Parents and relatives relentlessly pressure young men in Kyrgyzstan to marry after they reach a certain age. For many, especially for poor families, this is the cheapest and quickest way to marry their son.

If the new law is passed then all relatives who are somehow involved in the process of kidnapping may face a prison term.

“This is a tradition that existed and will exist no matter what law you adopt,” Bishkek resident Bobek, 48, said, voicing an opinion that appeared to be shared by many. He said the law would only fuel corruption, as men would bribe their way out of trouble.

Another MP, Kurmantay Abdiyev, believes that the legal changes will have little effect. “By toughening sanctions we will not prevent people from committing a crime,” he told the BBC.

Mrs Altybayeva agrees that new laws will not solve the problem right away. But she says they can demonstrate the government’s stance on the phenomenon.

“By declaring bride kidnapping a crime and not a tradition the government can help to change people’s minds,” she said.

Everything about this ‘tradition’ bothers me but what really pisses me off is the fact that cattle stealing holds a stiffer penalty than abducting and raping a woman. Legislators are flippant about the issue and obviously have no intention on upholding the law. 

As usual I welcome your comments.