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Honorable Status of Women in Islam

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Vani custom: Traded like animals - the blood feuds settled with 'gift' of a wife

Outlawed custom that parcels out young women in marriage survives in rural Pakistan.
Vani (Urdu: ونی‎) is a cultural custom found in parts of Pakistan wherein young girls are forcibly married as part of punishment for a crime committed by her male relatives.Vani is a form of arranged child marriage, and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders named jirga. The custom became illegal in Pakistan effective 2011; however, the practice continues.Recently the courts in Pakistan have begun taking serious note and action against the continuation of the practice. Vani is sometimes spelled as Wani. It is a Pashto word derived from vanay which means blood. Vani is also known as Sak, Swara and Sangchatti in different regional languages of Pakistan. Some claim Vani can be avoided if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money, called Deet (Urdu: دیت‎).
According to a legend this custom started almost 400 years ago when two northwestern Pakistani Pashtun tribes fought a bloody war against each other. During the war, hundreds were murdered. The Nawab, regional ruler, settled the war by calling a Jirga of elders from both sides. The elders decided that the dispute and crime of men be settled by giving their girls as Qisas, a retaliatory punishment.Ever since then, tribal and rural jirgas have been using young virgin girls from 4 to 14 year old, through child marriages, to settle crimes such as murder by men. This blood for blood tradition is practiced in different states of Pakistan such as Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Sarhad and tribal areas.

Eyes glimmering with worry, Tasleem Bibi peered through the slits of her pitch-black veil. Seventeen years ago her father had struck a devilish deal to stay out of jail. Now his daughter was paying its price. A rival family was demanding that Tasleem marry one of their sons. Her hand in marriage had been promised back in 1989, they insisted, as part of an agreement to end a blood feud between the two clans.
But then Tasleem was five years old. Now, at 22, she was refusing to go through with the wedding. The other family, angered and armed with rifles, had been threatening to kill her. "This is so cruel," she whispered, her hands quivering as she stared out at the farmhouse door. "I committed no crime, so why am I the one being punished?"
She is a victim of vani, an ugly tradition where young Pakistani women are traded between families in resolution of a dispute. Although outlawed two years ago, vani is still prevalent in conservative pockets across Pakistan. Usually it is a matter of murder. The family of an accused murderer promises to give one of their women, sometimes as young as two, in marriage; 10 or 15 years later, after she has reached maturity, the wedding day arrives. It is a mournful, disgrace-tinged event.


These weddings are devoid of the glittering jewellery, three-day banquets and drum music that mark the normal Punjabi celebrations. Instead the woman is delivered to her new husband without ceremony, in ordinary clothes and often as a second or third wife.

"The woman is traded like an animal. Once married, she is little better than a slave," said Khalil ur Rehman, a lawyer and human rights advocate in Mianwali, a wheat-growing district 110 miles south-west of Islamabad where vani is common.

In some cases several women are involved. Tasleem's father, Muhammad Zaman, was accused of killing another man in a bitter land dispute. To keep the case out of court his family agreed to a high price - £3,300 and five women.

Two women have already been married off; now Tasleem and her sister are due to be paired with Mumtaz and Ghulam Akbar, two truck drivers whom she describes as brutish men. Repulsed by the idea, Tasleem has refused, and is supported by her brothers. "This vani should never have been agreed," said Sher Abbas Niazi, 28. "We love her and we are against this custom."

The rival family fired shots at her brothers as they walked through the fields and called on village elders to mediate. Still she refuses to budge. Two of her cousins, Rahmat and Nusrat, have already been married off. She knows her fate if she caves in. "A vani wife is treated like dirt," she said defiantly. "The men wear her like a pair of shoes."

Defenders of the tradition - mostly conservative tribal elders - say this method prevents bloodshed between warring clans. "When we give our daughters it is not for personal amusement but to bring an end to enmity," said Haji Sher Bahadur Khan, an elder in the village, Malmundi.

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, claims to side with the women. The military leader, who listed "the empowerment of women" as one of his main achievements during a recent visit by the US president, George Bush, passed a law against vani in 2004.

But laws made in Islamabad often have limited influence in rural areas where centuries-old feudalism still holds. Just 15 vani cases have been tried under the new law in Mianwali, said Mr Rehman, which had led only five men to abandon their claims.

The law included many flaws and the police and local authorities were often reluctant to prosecute cases, Mr Rehman said. Politicians such as Imran Khan, the former cricket star who represents Mianwali, appear reluctant to speak out.

There are no reliable figures on the number of vani victims but campaigners estimate there are hundreds of cases. The tradition is part of a wider impunity for crimes against women, such as "honour killing".

Recently a woman and her daughter were shot dead in a central Mianwali bazaar, accused of prostitution. Their killer turned out to be the woman's brother. "He has been jailed but will probably be out within a month," said Abdur Rashid, headteacher at a local boys' school. "In our society the killer becomes a hero."

Domestic violence is widespread but largely hidden. Mr Rashid said he had recently visited a woman who had been chained and beaten by her husband. Doctors counted 22 wounds on her. "I couldn't believe my eyes," he said, shaking his head.

Campaigners say reform of the vani laws and greater commitment from local authorities are crucial for ending the custom. Education is also vital. Only about one-third of all Pakistani women in the country are literate, and the proportion is much lower in rural areas.


Yet some of the women who have had schooling are standing up for themselves. Last month Nusrat Bibi, 20, and her sister Kulsoom Bibi, 21, were due to marry in Daud Khel, 20 miles from Mianwali. But hours before completion of the wedding preparations, which included food and drink for 150 guests, two brothers from another family halted the ceremony claiming the sisters were theirs under an old vani deal.

The sisters were disgusted. The two brothers were known heroin addicts, said the women. But the local mullah sided with the brothers. "We waited until the last prayer [early evening] but still he would not agree," said the younger sister. Undeterred, the sisters have now obtained a fatwa, or religious order, from a more liberal cleric, and are determined to press ahead with the marriages of their choice.[ Islam grants freedom of choice to marry to women]

"Those men are threatening us but we are not afraid," said Nusrat, smiling from behind her veil. "We will not back down. Soon this will be over."


Honour killings, rape, acid assaults, forced marriage and horrific violence are lamentably common in Pakistan despite some reforms. New laws banning some of the cruellest customs are often ignored. Last week Dir district elders, citing "local culture" as a justification, threatened to punish women who reported crimes against them to the police. Most international attention has focused on Mukhtaran Bibi, a gang rape victim who brought a prosecution against her attackers. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, says women's rights are a top priority, but he has also remarked that some women use rape as a "moneymaking concern", or to back their asylum applications.
By Declan Walsh in Malmundi : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/apr/21/pakistan.declanwalsh
  1. Child brides among pashtuns

    "Nowhere does Islam say it is okay to treat women like commodities ... areas where vani and other crimes against women are prevalent remain  ...
  1. Brutal Women Abuses - YouTube


    Ninety per cent cases of violence against womenin Pakistan are not ... 241 women trafficking cases, 374 police torture cases, 50 cases of vaniswara ... a sharp increase in the incidents of crime against women in Pakistan with  ...

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Do men really hate women?

Are men misogynists? The answer is not a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Betty Friedan was perhaps the first feminist to call it “the problem that has no name.” But nail it she did in the end after deconstructing the lives of several housewives from around America who were unhappy despite being married with children and living in material comfort during the mid-20th century. Her research ballooned into a blockbuster called Feminine Mystique published in 1963.

Pregnant with her second child, Betty Friedan got fired from her job. Angry at how women always got the rough end of the stick, her book stirred the second wave of feminism that ripped wide open taboo subjects like sexuality, marriage, violence, domestic abuse, marital rape, discriminatory laws, sexual harassment at workplace and women’s reproductive rights. Billed as the most ‘sweeping social revolution’ in American history, Friedan’s feminist manifesto fired the first shot at American husbands and bosses whose mistaken belief of male superiority limited and sabotaged women’s full potential.

Male supremacy was no longer a given.

Over 20 years later, when the UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi rolled out in 1985, women activism, from a blip on the radar screen, had become a full-blown phenomenon.

Women’s lib entered Pakistan formally with the writings of major feminists like Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem. Greer’s first book The Female Eunuch raked up enough controversy to become an international bestseller in 1970. Greer called on women to define their “own values, order their own priorities and determine their own fates”. This definition didn’t quite fit the emasculated women in Pakistan. We, instead, found more meaning in the Ms Magazine co-founded and edited by the icon of feminism, Gloria Steinem, who had risen to become the media spokeswoman for the women’s liberation movement. With her feminist writings, Steinem pierced the glass ceiling at Esquire and The New York Times Magazine which traditionally plied to the old boys’ network.

Equally groundbreaking was the radical change in offices of the Dawn Group of Newspapers in Pakistan. Employing a hefty female staff of 40 strong, rights issues moved centre stage under women editors, writers and reporters. Quickly, other media houses followed spawning narratives on gender concerns across the country despite black press laws enforced by the mullah-dominated military government.

In the murky landscape of public lashings for women accused of committing zina (adultery) if they failed to produce four eyewitnesses who watched them being raped, 17 staunchly strident women focused on confronting the military diktat on sequestering women stepped up to the plate and the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) was born. Those glorious years juxtaposed with turbulent times and aching frustrations capture the defiant mood while celebrating womanhood with feminist music, workshops, writings and art.

President Zia’s last nail in the coffin was the ambush of the UN Women’s Conference in July 1985. On its eve, he sneaked in the Hudood Ordinance stripping women of equal rights before the law and sending them back to medieval times. In the wake of this discriminatory law, the job to defend Pakistan at the conference by the Pakistani official delegation was like a deformed joke. It was led by Begum Zari Sarfraz, chairperson of Commission on the Status of Women, the body that had earlier produced a damning report on the pathetic status of our women. Naturally, it ended up in Zia’s freezer. When repeatedly grilled by the international media to comment on women’s subjugation back home, our women delegates, handpicked by Zia, were stone-faced and silent.

A different environment pervaded the parallel but rambunctious event organised by the NGO Forum. Pakistani activists unreservedly vented anger, resentment and a sense of betrayal by their government. The loudest voice was of the feminist poet Kishwar Naheed. She had translated Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique in Urdu.

Sisters in sympathy with our official delegation were the skittish APWA ladies present at the NGO Forum. They barely uttered a word against Zia. However, floating around the international forum was a newspaper interview of Begum Raana Liaquat Ali, by the renowned Sunday Times, London, correspondent Mary Anne in which the APWA founder was quoted as fuming against the Hudood Ordinance, “Soon President Zia will have us walking on the other side of the pavement.”

Midst the milling crowd of feminists at the conference was film star Smita Patel. Her one sentence has resonated all of the 28 years: “I am a multi-faceted woman,” she said to me in an interview. Refusing to be pigeonholed as a leading heroine of Bollywood, Smita acted in parallel cinema that confronted sensitive issues of a woman’s sexuality and domestic violence.

Nairobi hosted noted feminists like Bella Abzug, the American lawyer, nicknamed ‘Battling Bella;’ Margaret Trudeau, outspoken wife of Canadian prime minister and Sally Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who kindled the conference with her pungent quips. The highpoint, for me, was meeting Betty Friedan.

We talked, we chatted, we laughed and we exchanged views on how women had come a long way since she rallied for gender equality. Do men hate women, I asked her? “No. Read my book The Second Stage and you will get the answer you seek.”

Eleven days later, weary but excited, we returned, lugging back a wordy tome called Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women unanimously adopted by the 193 member countries. Thumbing through pages and pages of sleep-inducing UN jargon is a feat few of us have attempted revisiting, leave alone question the fact that though 187 member state signatories, including Pakistan, have ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), women today are not equal.

America leads the ‘Misogynists Club of Seven’ that won’t sign the CEDAW. The other six ‘women haters’ are: Tonga, Palau, Iran, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

No surprise then, Betty Friedan, a divorced mother of three, was once famously asked if she’d marry again. “That’s the one unfinished part,” she answered, “to have a relationship with a man that will work.” Doesn’t this say it all? The concept of ‘equality between the sexes’ is obsolete like its big sister: the word ‘feminist
By Anjum Niaz.  Dawn.com

4 Women's Issues That Haven't Changed Since 1911

Over 100 years ago, radical writer and activist Emma Goldman penned the essay "The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation." In the piece, which the Atlantic unearthed on July 12th, Goldman explores issues of equal pay, the tension between family life and home life, and the roadblocks that prevent true gender equality. Essentially, Emma Goldman sparked the original "having-it-all" debate.
So many of the issues Goldman raises feel nearly as relevant now as they must have then. Here are four things Goldman touches on that we're still working on today:
1. Men dominate many of the most esteemed professional fields -- and get paid more for their work.
"It is a fact that women teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, and engineers are neither met with the same confidence as their male colleagues, nor receive equal remuneration," Goldman wrote. Today, women are still severely underrepresented in many fields -- especially in leadership positions. In 2004, only 16.8 percent of large law-firm partnerswere women. Only 1 out of every 7 engineering students is female, and women account for a pathetic 6 percent of chief executives of the top 100 tech companies. And in terms of remuneration, it's well established that women earn an average of 77 cents for every man's dollar.
2. Work stress disproportionately impacts women.
Emma Goldman wrote that to succeed in the workplace, “[women] generally do so at the expense of their physical and psychical well-being” –- a feeling that still resonates with many women and men today. But studies show that workplace stress may disproportionately impact women. The American Psychological Association's Work And Well-Being Survey, published in March of this year, found that 37 percent of women said they feel stressed at work (whereas 33 percent of men reported workplace stress) and that only 34 percent of women felt that they had enough resources to manage their stress (whereas 38 percent of men felt they had resources available to them).
But, it seems that women have begun to take control of this issue since Goldman’s time and are starting to have constructive conversations about how to handle stress -- weighing priorities, demanding flexibilityand generally pushing back against stressful work environments.
3. The "freedom" the workplace supposedly offers women sometimes doesn't feel so free at all.
"How much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of freedom of the factory, sweat-shop, department store, or office?" Goldman asked. And when one considers the persistence of gender-based workplace discrimination, the workplace is not a place of freedom for many women. The gender-based wage gap, as well as the glass ceiling and occupational segregation are just a few of the factors which can make the workplace an frustrating rather than liberating place for some women.
4. Women are doubling up on work at home and outside of the home.
The "Second Shift" -- a term established by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in 1989, which refers to the disproportionate amount of unpaid domestic labor women do in addition to their paid jobs -- has apparently been around since Goldman's time. Goldman wrote, "In addition [to working] is the burden which is laid on many women of looking after a 'home, sweet home' -- cold, dreary, disorderly, uninviting -- after a day's hard work."
In June of this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the "second shift" is still a problem. Only 20 percent of men reported helping out with housework (such as cleaning and doing laundry), while 48 percent of women said the same. And while 39 percent of men said that they helped out with food preparation and cleanup, 65 percent of women said that they regularly prepared meals. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg points to this second shift as a serious blockade to women's progress, encouraging women to stop being "maternal gatekeepers" and encourage their partners to take on greater responsibilities at home.
Goldman wraps up her essay with an eerily prescient summary of the issues she feels women of her generation faced:
The narrowness of the existing conception of woman's independence and emancipation; the dread of love for a man who is not her social equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and independence; the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only hinder her in the full exercise of her profession -- all these together make of the emancipated modern woman a compulsory vestal, before whom life, with its great clarifying sorrows and its deep, entrancing joys, rolls on without touching or gripping her soul.
Luckily, Goldman's essay not only reminds us of the things we still need to work on, but highlights how far we've come. Women are pushing back and engaging in productive dialogues about how we can further progress-- both in and out of the office, and thought leaders like Sheryl Sandberg are encouraging women to demand the compensation they deserve. There's more work to be done, but we're well on our way.

Women's rights country by country - interactive

The Guardian
Using World Bank and UN data we offer a snapshot of women's rights across the globe. Select a region and hover over a country to see how it ...

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Female circumcision un-Islamic

A Egyptian conference of Muslim scholars from around the world declared female circumcision to be contrary to Islam and an attack on women, and called today for those who practice it to be punished.

Regarding religious differences, it is now generally recognized that even though a number of the countries where female genital surgeries are found are predominantly Muslim, the practices are not prescribed by Islam and are, in fact, found among non-Muslim groups such as Coptic Christians of Egypt, several Christian groups in Kenya, and the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia. In CDI [Côte d'Ivoire], the prevalence is 80 percent among Muslims, 40 percent among those with no religion and 15 percent among Protestants, and in Sudan the prevalence is highest among Muslim women ... In Kenya, by contrast, prevalence is highest among Catholics and Protestants compared with other religious groups ... Thus, there is no unequivocal link between religion and prevalence. - Carla Obermeyer, 1999.

The conference, organised by the German human rights group TARGET, recommended that governments pass laws to prohibit the tradition and that judicial bodies prosecute those who mutilate female genitals.

"The conference appeals to all Muslims to stop practicing this habit, according to Islam's teachings which prohibit inflicting harm on any human being," the participants said in their final statement.

Egypt's two top Islamic clerics, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, the foremost theological institute in the Sunni Muslim world, and Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, attended the conference, which drew scholars from as far afield as Russia.

Tantawi's and Gomaa's edicts are considered binding.

Female circumcision, which involves cutting the clitoris, continues to be practiced in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa as well as Egypt, Yemen and Oman, despite numerous campaigns against it.

Those men who support the tradition believe it lowers a girl's sexual desire and helps maintain her honour. They also believe it is required by Islam.

The scholars said circumcision inflicts physical and mental harm on women. Furthermore, they said, Islam considers it to be an aggression against women. Those who perform it should be punished.

"The conference reminds all teaching and media institutions of their role to explain to the people the harmful effects of this habit in order to eliminate it," the scholars said in their recommendations.

"The conference calls on judicial institutions to issue laws that prohibit and criminalise this habit ... which appeared in several societies and was adopted by some Muslims although it is not sanctioned by the Quran or the Sunna," the scholars said, referring to Islam's holy book and the sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Although many countries have outlawed female circumcision, the law is poorly enforced and prosecutions are rare.

In the 1950s, the Egyptian government tried to stop midwives from performing the custom, while allowing doctors to do so - fearing that otherwise families who insisted on circumcising their daughters would have the operation carried out in unsafe conditions. But in 1996, the health minister imposed a total ban on the practice.
  1. Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is Un-Islamic - YouTube


    American Society for Muslim Advancement The Global Muslim Women's Shura Council.
    1. www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6pijHfSxBo

      1. Being sarcastic and arrogant about it won't make it right Mr Hitchens!

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