Sisters of the Earth – This Week in Global Women’s News

December 10, 2004

Sisters of the Earth – This Week in Global Women’s News

Book Ban

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian dissident and the first Muslim woman to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, is being prohibited from publishing her memoirs in the United States because of laws that forbid “trading with the enemy.”

Ebadi is a persuasive voice in the struggle against an Islam commandeered by fundamentalist extremists. This mother of two has endured great personal danger in order to act as a powerful voice for human rights. Islamic clerics in her homeland refer to her as “Islam’s No. 1 enemy” and “the mare of the apocalypse.”

The American Treasury Department has ruled that it is illegal even to enhance the value of anything, including books, created without permission in Iran.

Preventing Violence Against Women: Putting Past Perpetrators to Work

Sibongiseni Mgomezulu, a 32-year-old man from Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, South Africa realised that what he was doing was wrong, so he looked for help at Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) project in the township. Mr Mgomezulu comes from a traditional Zulu family that taught him that the man had to be the head of the household. He once thought this meant having total power over women. “I became very aggressive towards women so that I could ‘protect’ my dignity,” says Mr Mgomezulu.

After receiving therapy at ADAPT he started a theater company that dealt with women and child abuse as well as other social issues. ADAPT was founded in 1994, initially as an organisation that assisted abused women but in 1997 the men’s programme for rehabilitation was introduced.

Experts: Distorting Religions to Defend Honour Killings

U.N. estimates show that more than 5,000 women are murdered every year in “honor”-related violence, but the real number could be much higher, said experts at a recent international conference near Stockholm. In many cases patriarchal violence against women is rooted in cultural and tribal beliefs.

“Islam as a reason for the honor killings is rubbish,” said Nilofar Bakhtiar, adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister on Women’s’ Development, blaming such violence in Pakistan on “the feudal tradition, the culture and the tribal system.” She said that men found it “very convenient to say that what they don’t want to do is against Islam and what they want to do is in the name of Islam.”

While most cases are reported in Muslim countries, “honor” violence also occurs among Christian families, delegates said.

Pentagon Reports “No Willful or Intentional Neglect”

Former American Air Force cadet Beth Davis, who left the academy in August 2002, claims she was punished for reporting that she had been raped (as a result of her report she was given a demerit for having sex in a dorm) and that her alleged attacker was not prosecuted.

Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz blamed, but did not identify, eight Air Force officers for their roles in policies that supervised sexual-assault reporting at the academy. Schmitz said academy commanders failed to recognize and confront the seriousness of sexual assaults against female cadets. “The inspector general found that there was no willful or intentionalneglect,” Dominguez told “Today.”

Outside investigations have concluded the academy’s culture established conditions that exacerbated the problem, one of these conditions being resistance to the inclusion of female cadets.

Governor Arnold on California Nurses: “I Kick Their Butts Every Day”

While four hundred registered nurses picketed California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in response to his attempt to roll back RN staffing ratios, Schwarzenegger told his audience, “Pay no attention to those voices over there… They’re just angry because I kick their butts every day.”

In early November the governor issued an order to rollback key provisions of the California law requiring adequate RN hospital staffing. His edict was made at the request of the state’s multi-billion dollar healthcare industry which is among the special interests that have contributed more than $26 million to the governor in his first year. The California Healthcare Association, whose members are major donors to Schwarzenegger, thanked him for the attempted rollback by paying for the ads applauding it.

Amnesty International says Women Bear the Brunt of War

Women are too often the first victims of conflict, Amnesty International charged Wednesday in a report demanding legal reparation. “Patterns of violence against women in conflict do not arise ‘naturally’ but are ordered, condoned or tolerated as a result of political calculations,” secretary general Irene Khan said in introducing the 120-page report on women in war.

The December 6th Montreal Massacre Remembered

In 1989, the 25-year-old Marc Lepine entered the Ecole Polytechnique, the University of Montreal’s engineering school, armed with a semi-automatic rifle. He went into a classroom, ordered the male students to leave, then began shooting.

“You’re all a bunch of feminists and I hate feminists!” Lepine yelled at his victims during one point in his rampage. Lepine, who ended his attack by killing himself, left behind a note blaming “feminists” for all the problems in his troubled life. The killings shocked the country, triggering a debate about violence towards women, spurring gun control legislation and making Dec. 6 a National Day of Remembrance.

“There’s so much action and awareness to violence against women. [L├ępine] has not accomplished his mission. It’s precisely the opposite.”
— Suzanne Laplante-Edward, mother of Anne Marie, one of the murder victims in the Montreal Massacre

Telmond’s Palestinian Female Prisoners on Hunger Strike

On 30 November Samah Abdallah, a Palestinian detainee in the women’s section of Telmond prison, informed a lawyer that on 28 November the female Palestinian prisoners in Telmond went out to the exercise yard. Before the end of their allotted time outdoors, the prison administration ordered the Palestinian women and girls to return to their cells. The representative of the Palestinian female detainees, Amna Mouna, complained to the guards that it was too soon for the women to go back inside. As she did so, she was severely beaten by a group of prison guards after which she was taken to the punishment cells, cold bare rooms with no bedding, heating, or natural light.

To protest against the manner in which the prison administration treats female Palestinian prisoners and in particular against the beating of their spokeswoman and her subsequent isolation, the remaining Palestinian female prisoners began screaming and shouting. The guards responded by bringing in other troops who beat the women and sprayed them with water and tear gas. The prison administration did not provide medical or first aid treatment to detainees injured in the confrontation.

The Palestinian female detainees in Telmond, among whom are at least five under-18 of age, have begun a hunger strike to protest against the treatment they have suffered at the hands of the prison administration and the appalling conditions in which they are held.

Delhi Campaign for Safety of Women and Girls on Trains and Platforms

The Railway Campaign was launched in 1998 by women’s groups in Delhi to demand safe travel conditions forwomen on trains. The Railway Campaign was the outcome of an experience of sexual violence at the hands of men in uniform. The campaign focuses on women’s right to use public transport without the
threat, fear or experience of violence.

Marriage Scam Targets South African Women

Groups of foreigners have been bribing corrupt officials in South Africa’s Ministry of Home Affairs. The officials then “marry” the foreigners to unsuspecting South African women. Until recently this gave any foreigner permanent residency and the right to look for a job in South Africa’s growing economy.

In August, the South African Government, embarrassed by reports of the marriage scam, launched a “Marriage Verification Campaign” and urged women across the country to go to their nearest registry office to ensure that they have not been married without their knowledge. According to government figures, from August to mid-October, 1,300 fraudulent marriages were revealed.

Chilean Women Gain Right to Divorce

Chile has become one of the last countries to enact a law that makes divorce legal. In the past Chilean couples could separate and, rarely, get their marriages annulled. But the decision had to be mutual. The new law allows for a divorce after one year’s separation if the request is mutual. If a woman wants a divorce and her husband refuses to grant one, they must be separated for three years before a divorce can be granted. The man still retains rights over his wife during the wait.