Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Hundreds of women, some of them pregnant or domestic servants who are victims of rape, are being imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates every year under laws that outlaw consensual sex outside marriage, according to a BBC Arabic investigation.
Secret footage obtained by BBC Arabic show pregnant women shackled in chains walking into a courtrooms where laws prohibiting “Zina” – or sex outside marriage – could mean sentences of months to years in prison and flogging.
“Because the UAE authorities have not clarified what they mean by indecency, the judges can use their culture and customs and Sharia ultimately to broaden out that definition and convict people for illicit sexual relations or even acts of public affection,” said Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch in London.
While both men and women could in theory be imprisoned for having sex outside marriage, the investigation – which will air at the opening of BBC Arabic festival on 31 October – found that in reality pregnancy is often used as proof of the “crime”, with domestic female migrant workers – numbering about 150,000 in the UAE – left most vulnerable.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike - they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.
When Ronald Reagan became the US President, one small boy in Iceland was outraged. "He can't be a president - he's a man!" he exclaimed to his mother when he saw the news on the television.
It was November 1980, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a divorced single mother, had won Iceland's presidency that summer. The boy didn't know it, but Vigdis (all Icelanders go by their first name) was Europe's first female president, and the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state.
Many more Icelandic children may well have grown up assuming that being president was a woman's job, as Vigdis went on to hold the position for 16 years - years that set Iceland on course to become known as "the world's most feminist country".
But Vigdis insists she would never have been president had it not been for the events of one sunny day - 24 October 1975 - when 90% of women in the country decided to demonstrate their importance by going on strike.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Tokyo’s Shibuya ward said Friday that it will start accepting applications for same-sex partnership certificates beginning next week after passing an ordinance earlier this year that permits the ward to recognize the partners equivalent to those married under the law.
According to the ward, same-sex couples applying for a certificate must both reside in Shibuya and be at least 20 years old. They must also be unrelated and have no spouses or other same-sex partners. The ward will also require that the couple submit notarized documents proving their relationship.
The ward said it will start issuing the certificates beginning Nov. 5.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Around the world, women in 155 countries face legal restrictions on the economic opportunities available to them, according to the recent World Bank Group's reportWomen, Business and the Law 2016, which highlights the challenges women face in the global economy and underscores the need for legal reform.
These legal barriers are just the beginning of the obstacles women face to accessing economic opportunities. Establishing women's equality in the law is critical, but more work is needed to dismantle the social and cultural norms that prevent women from knowing and accessing their rights.
Friday, October 16, 2015
It’s not novel that minors in the US can, in very rare cases, be sentenced to reform programs or secure confinement for actions that wouldn’t be illegal if adults did them. But the system used to punish youth for the likes of skipping school or drinking has never been used systematically to address cases where minors engage in survival sex – meaning, youths who exchange sex for money, shelter, food, drugs or other needs.
That is about to change, even though treating juveniles charged with prostitution like truants will increase arrests and extend court-involvement and institutionalization of victims.
Monday, October 12, 2015
In the midst of earthquake reconstruction and political violence in the country's south, Nepal's new constitution provides a reason for many citizens to celebrate -- particularly its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.
After more than seven years of deliberation, on September 20, Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav promulgated the small Himalayan country's historic constitution. It stands as the first national constitution in Asia--and only the third in the world along with South Africa (1996) and Ecuador (1998)--to include explicit rights and protections for LGBTI people.
Friday, October 9, 2015
"Everyone has a fundamental right to be recognized in their gender," the Delhi High Court declared this week in a short but powerful judgment that vindicates the rights of India’s transgender people.
The court stepped in to protect Shivy, a 19-year-old transgender man studying neurobiology in California, who was being mistreated by his parents during a family holiday to India. Shivy said his parents confined him to his grandparents’ home in Agra, took away his Indian passport and United States residency card, and compelled him to enroll in a university in Agra. When he ran away, his parents reported him to the police, who searched for him and reportedly harassed activists who had assisted him.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was supposed to be a game changer for women. It reads: "Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons." But lawyer, Trudeau Foundation scholar, and Queen's University PhD candidate Kerri Froc says it has been used to hurt women's rights instead of advance them.
Froc would like to see Section 28 - which was modelled on the proposed American Equal Rights Amendment - rehabilitated to protect and promote women's rights, as it was intended.
Right after the Charter was entrenched, there was a flurry of activity with respect to sex discrimination cases but most of it was brought by men, essentially attacking some of the very few legislative provisions that protected women. There was a case concerning social assistance benefits that gave some small protections to single mothers and what the courts said was, 'Section 28 requires absolute equal treatment between men and women, you can't have that.' So it struck down that benefit.
h/t Sonia Lawrence
Friday, September 25, 2015
BEIJING — Chinese leader Xi Jinping will preside this weekend over a U.N. conference on gender equality, which some activists say is galling given China's recent detentions of women's rights activists and its history of stopping people from attending U.N. meetings to discuss such issues.
Scheduled to draw more than 80 national leaders at the United Nations' headquarters in New York on Sunday, the meeting co-hosted by China comes 20 years after Beijing held a groundbreaking U.N. conference on women's rights in which Hillary Clinton equated women's rights with human rights.
China has made some progress in women's rights since then, including the introduction of local-level regulations against domestic violence, but much remains to be done in bringing women into positions of power. Only two women are in the Communist Party's powerful 25-member Politburo.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Nawel was in Tunis’s city centre when it happened. “This guy came up to me from nowhere. He was dressed really religiously and, without any warning, he just slapped me across the face – and the weird thing was that it wasn’t just the slap. It was that no one did anything. They all just carried on. It was if I deserved it.”
Nawel shakes her head, still stung by the casual indifference of the crowd. There isn’t anything unusual about her that might mark her out for attack. With her short hair, jeans and T-shirt she is indistinguishable from many other young women.
Tunisia’s attitude to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community goes beyond the social. Article 230 of Tunisia’s constitution forbids acts of sodomy, with those found guilty facing jail sentences of up to three years. Article 226 rules against outrages to public decency, a catch-all law often used to target the country’s trans community. Both laws date from 1914 and remain untouched by the 2011 revolution and the subsequent rush to reform.
Much of the focus for Tunisia’s LGBT pushback has focused on the pressure group Shams, which campaigns for the repeal of Article 230. But an organisation formed in June last year is providing a feminist alternative. Chouf, whose members see themselves primarily as visual activists, offers a desperately needed safe haven for Tunisia’s most isolated and vulnerable groups, its lesbian, bisexual and trans communities.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
About three weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Colombian government issued a directive that received little international notice. On June 4th, the government announced that it would allow Colombian citizens to change their gender on identity documents without first undergoing gender-reassignment surgery or obtaining permission from a medical professional. These requirements, which remain in place, either in whole or in part, in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, were “profoundly invasive of the right to privacy and based upon an impermissible bias,” said Yesid Reyes, the minister of justice. “The construction of sexual identity and gender is a matter that does not depend on biology.”
England and Spain passed the first laws making it easier for a person to change her gender on official documents, in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and Uruguay followed suit in 2009. Three years later, Argentina passed the most progressive gender-identity law in the world. Not only are Argentines spared the usual requirement of reassignment surgery or a medical diagnosis to change identity documents, but medical practitioners are bound by law to provide them with free hormone treatment and gender-reassignment surgery. Colombia’s decree, which was issued by the president, lacks the reach and force of Argentina’s legislation, but it is striking just the same. Now, in Colombia, all an individual has to do to change his or her gender on official documents is appear before a notary public.
Monday, August 17, 2015
From the NYT, a seeming contradiction between women's rights and radical Islam:
....young women attracted to what some experts are calling a jihadi, girl-power subculture. An estimated 4,000 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq, more than 550 of them women and girls, to join the Islamic State, according to a recent report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which helps manage the largest database of female travelers to the region.
They were smart, popular girls from a world in which teenage rebellion is expressed through a radical religiosity that questions everything around them. In this world, the counterculture is conservative. Islam is punk rock. The head scarf is liberating. Beards are sexy.
Ask young Muslim women in their neighborhood what kind of guys are popular at school these days and they start raving about “the brothers who pray.”
“Girls used to want someone who is good-looking; nowadays girls want Muslims who are practicing,” said Zahra Qadir, 22, who does deradicalization work for the Active Change Foundation, her father’s charity in East London. “It’s a new thing over the last couple of years. A lot of girls want that, even some nonpracticing girls.”
Jane says she was raped by three men wearing Gurkha uniforms. She was herding her husband’s goats and sheep, and carrying firewood, when she was attacked. “I felt so ashamed and could not talk about it to other people. They did terrible things to me,” says Jane, her eyes alive with pain.
She is 38 but looks considerably older. She shows me a deep scar on her leg where she was cut by stones when she was pushed to the ground. In a quiet, hesitant voice she continues her story. “I eventually told my husband’s mother that I was sick, because I had to explain the injuries and my depression. I was given traditional medicine, but it did not help. When she told my husband [about the rape], he beat me with a cane. So I disappeared and came here with my children.”
Jane is a resident of Umoja, a village in the grasslands of Samburu, in northernKenya, surrounded by a fence of thorns. I arrive in the village at the hottest time of the day, when the children are sleeping. Goats and chickens wander around, avoiding the bamboo mats on which women sit making jewellery to sell to tourists, their fingers working quickly as they talk and laugh with each other. There are clothes drying in the midday sun on top of the huts made from cow dung, bamboo and twigs. The silence is broken by birdsong, shrill, sudden and glorious. It is a typical Samburu village except for one thing: no men live here.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Amnesty International will support the decriminalization of all elements of prostitution—including paying for sex and facilitating sex-for-money transactions—after a vote of some 400 delegates at a meeting in Dublin, the New York Times reports:The proposal about prostitution provoked an aggressive lobbying campaign by international groups opposed to sparing buyers and pimps from penalties. Competing petitions were organized by women’s groups and celebrities— including former President Jimmy Carter, who issued a letter on Monday — appealing to the group to maintain penalties for buyers and to “stay true to its mission.”
Countries including Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand already have the kind of highly tolerant policies Amnesty will now advocate for, the BBC says, while the Times notes that Sweden's and Norway's laws fall somewhere between prohibition and decriminalization; in those Scandinavian countries, prostitution itself is legal but paying for sex can be punished with "heavy fines and prison terms."
The proposed language of the new Amnesty policy cautions that sex-work practices "that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence" should continue to be considered unacceptable before asserting that "the available evidence indicates that the criminalisation of sex work is more likely than not to reinforce discrimination against those who engage in these activities, to increase the likelihood that they will be subjected to harassment and violence, including ill-treatment at the hands of police, and to lead to the denial of due process and the exclusion from public benefits such as health services, housing, education, and immigration status."
Monday, August 3, 2015
An automatic legal pardon should be given to all men convicted under historical homosexuality laws without the need for families or individuals to apply to the government, the Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham has proposed. His pledge, following consultation with Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions and current Labour MP, means it would be possible to quash up to 50,000 convictions for acts that would be not be illegal today.
Burnham, who currently shares roughly the same number of constituency nominations as Jeremy Corbyn, said he will press prime minister David Cameron to make a relatively simple change to the law, but if he does not do so, it would form part of the first legislative programme of a Burnham-led government. The move comes two years after the royal pardon granted to second world war codebreaker Alan Turing.
Were there any women convicted the referenced law?
Friday, July 31, 2015
New research by the Law Society of Scotland shows a 42 per cent gender pay gap among its members, the lawyers’ body has revealed.
The figure was reached by comparing average full-time and full-time equivalent (for part time/flexible hours employees) salaries for women and men at all career stages.
Janet Hood, convenor of the Law Society’s equality and diversity committee said the gap “reflects very badly on what is otherwise a modern and forward-thinking profession”.
She added: “There are many and nuanced reasons why the gender pay gap exists, and the legal profession is certainly not alone – figures from November 2014 show that the overall UK gap was 9.4 percent.
“However we have seen little change in the past decade compared to other professions such as accountancy or dentistry and it is a major concern that such a substantial gap persists 45 years after the UK Equal Pay Act and 10 years of Law Society equality research and promoting good practice within the legal profession.”
Ms Hood said the issue could not be ignored “for either ethical or business reasons” and there should be “no limit” set on the talent and ambition of women in the sector.
The referenced report by the Law Society of Scotland is available here.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Unfortunate that I had missed this story earlier this month:
A U.S. law that treats mothers and fathers differently in determining whether their foreign-born children may claim U.S. citizenship is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday, four years after the U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on the issue.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the statute applied "impermissible stereotyping" in imposing a tougher burden on fathers.
The law requires unwed fathers who are U.S. citizens to spend at least five years living in the United States - a 2012 amendment reduced it from 10 years - before they can confer citizenship onto a child born abroad, out of wedlock and to a partner who is not a U.S. citizen. For unwed U.S. mothers in the same situation, the requirement is only one year.
Wednesday's ruling is likely to have a limited effect in terms of the number of people it applies to, but the decision addresses important principles regarding laws that explicitly treat the sexes differently, legal advocates said.
**the story continues here.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
The day is still etched in the Afghan judge’s mind more than a decade later — when she was in Washington, when she met with Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She recalls feeling awed and barely present, her thoughts instead flittering back to her country.
“I was asking myself whether we would ever have a similar situation in Afghanistan,“ said Anisa Rasooli, “where a woman judge would become a member of the Supreme Court.”
Last month, Rasooli came close — only to be let down by other women.
Afghanistan’s U.S.-educated president, Ashraf Ghani, had nominated Rasooli to become the country’s first female Supreme Court justice, carrying out an election promise. It was a landmark choice in a country where only 14 years ago, the Taliban Islamist regime bannedwomen from work, education and other parts of public life. They were forbidden from even leaving their homeswithout a male relative and a head-to-toe burqa.
Activists here and abroad were ecstatic. A woman on the bench of the country’s highest court could be an antidote to a growing concern: the erosion of gains in women’s rights as the Western military and aid footprint shrinks.
But then Afghanistan’s conservative establishment asserted itself. Influential Islamic clerics, as well as some male lawmakers, declared that a woman was not fit to try serious criminal cases. Their protests illustrated a continuing struggle pitting age-old traditions and customs against efforts to shape Afghanistan into a modern society.
Still, there were 69 female members in the Afghan parliament, which had to ratify Rasooli’s appointment, providing good odds for her to make history. But when the body met to vote this month, 23 female lawmakers were absent. Of 184 lawmakers present, 88 voted for her in the secret ballot — nine too few.
Monday, July 27, 2015
President Obama is presently traveling through Africa. Recently, he gave a speech in Kenya condemning the nation's refusal to protect the rights of its gay citizens. From the NYT:
NAIROBI, Kenya—Widespread celebration of President Barack Obama’s visit to a country teeming with national pride over an American leader considered a local son was briefly overshadowed Saturday by a public disagreement with his Kenyan counterpart over gay rights.
In an awkward moment of tension, Mr. Obama condemned Kenya’s treatment of gays and lesbians as “wrong—full stop” while standing alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint news conference.
The president, whose personal story has deep resonance in Kenya, even used himself as an example of why discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation should be illegal.
“As an African American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” said Mr. Obama, whose father was born and raised in Kenya.
To no avail......
But none of it swayed Mr. Kenyatta, who responded by saying his country does not share the U.S. president’s view.
“For Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” Mr. Kenyatta said, stressing matter-of-factly that economic and security concerns are of higher concern.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Transgender people in Ireland have won legal recognition of their status after a law was passed allowing them to change their legal gender with no medical or state intervention.
The majority of countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo surgery and sterilisation, or be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if they are married, in order to have their desired gender legally recognised.
The gender recognition bill, passed late on Wednesday and set to be signed into law by the end of July, makes Ireland only the third European country, after Denmark and Malta, to allow transgender people aged over 18 to change their legal gender without intervention.
The bill was passed months after the people of Ireland backed same-sex marriageby a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a country that decriminalised homosexuality just two decades ago.