CDWRME Bulletin #12
"Women in the Middle East"
Number 12, April, 2003
Bulletin of "Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East"
Editor: Azam Kamguian
Assistant Editor: Mona Basaruddin
Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East Coordinator & Spokesperson: Azam Kamguian
In this issue:
- Statement by CDWRME on the War in Iraq
- Afghanistan: First driving women will appear in Kabul
- Kuwait: Demands for votes for women
- Jordan: A pregnant women victim of Honour Killing
- Egypt: The majority of women undergone FGM
- Iran: Five girls burned themselves to death in protest
- The UK: Asian women's conference resolutions
- Nigeria: Women at mercy of the Islamic Sharia law
- Malaysia: Islamic leader calls for stoning in public
- Pakistan: Humiliation & brutality towards women
- France: Teachers protest school girl's veil
- The USA: Speech & panel discussion on Islam & Secularism
- CDWRME launches its new web site
- The USA: Campaign to end stoning
On March 20, 2003 the US government launched a bloody war on Iraq. After imposing 12 years of hunger and desperation on the people of Iraq, the US government is going for the kill. This war is going to change the world's geopolitics and impose a new barbaric order on it. Intimidation, terrorism and the use and spread of weapons of mass destruction will become the norm of the world. The US government is pushing the world to the brink.
This war is not against terrorism. It is itself naked terrorism. This is not a war against weapons of mass destruction. The US government is the only government, which has used nuclear weapons against people. The US government has used the most horrifying weapon of mass destruction, economic sanctions, against the defenceless people of Iraq. This war is not for the freedom of the people of Iraq. Only criminal psychopaths could claim that to free a people they must kill and starve them to death. Iraq is to be occupied and the people of Iraq are to suffer under a long period of uncertainty imposed by US generals, a US puppet government in coalition with a bunch of Islamists and fascists who will rule for the future. The fate of the people of Iraq will be passed from one criminal to another.
The USA war against Iraq is the continuation of the Gulf war, a war aiming to redefine the role of US in the order of the world. The US is targeting civilised humanity all over the world to intimidate any progressive movement in the world or any hope in this world, which are not compatible with US interests. This is a war against humanity. Civilised humanity, however, has risen against it. This war is condemned and must be stopped immediately. Today, the power of millions of protesting humanity against this war is the only means to bring this war to an end.
Following an absence of almost a decade, Afghan women drivers are once again appearing on the busy streets of Kabul. The capital's first driving course for women prepares to graduate its first class, thanks to efforts by a German-based NGO offering support to traumatised women and girls in war and crisis zones, Rachel Wareham, the program manager of Medica Mondiale, which launched the course last April, said recently. Aimed at helping women having the same choices as men by allowing them to travel independently, the group has already provided driving lessons to some one hundred women, 18 of whom will graduate soon, with licenses to be issued by the Kabul Traffic Department.
In Afghanistan, of the 8,698 licenses issued last year, only seven of them were women. The head of Kabul traffic department says that they do not have facilities and equipment to create separate driving courses for women. At best women are allowed to drive under the rule of sexual apartheid.
In an overview of the current state of affairs for women in Kuwait, Rola Dashti, chairperson and chief executive officer (CEO) of FARO International, a Kuwaiti financial-services consulting, says that, unlike women in all but two other Arab states, Kuwaiti women can neither vote nor run for political office, despite having one of the highest literacy rates in the region. Thus, she notes, Kuwaiti women have no say in such important societal matters as reform, economics and war; they are forbidden by law from participating in the development of their own country.
Dr. Farida Al-Habib, the Chief of Cardiology at Kuwait Armed Forces Hospital stressed that Kuwait females now serve their society as journalists, editors, doctors, important board members, and a female ambassador. "Women have more of a role to play than simply to cook and clean for men," she said. "We are here to contribute to society," she continued, pointing out the irony of her own situation: her job requires her to enter the "small veins and arteries in the hearts of men" to unclog the blockage, yet they "block me from voting."
The Emir of Kuwait issued a royal decree giving women complete political rights by the year 2003, but the measure was defeated by a 32-30 vote in the Kuwaiti Parliament. The opposition argued that suffrage went against the tenets of Islam and tradition.
The Criminal Court in Amman sentenced a 40-year-old man Faisal K., a taxi driver to 15 years prison, after convicting him of murdering his pregnant wife in June 2001 following a domestic dispute. Court papers said the couple - married for 14 years - had been separated off and on for two months beginning in April 2001. On the day of the murder, the defendant asked his wife to return to their home in a bid to reunite for their children's sake. After drinking an alcoholic beverage, the victim informed her husband she was pregnant and he was the father. The defendant did not believe her and became upset and suspicious since she had not informed him immediately about the matter. An argument ensued and Faisal asked his wife to get out of the house and return to her sister's home in Zarqa, but she refused. He then drew a gun and shot her three times in the head and chest. The couple's four children were in the house when the murder occurred. Following the shooting the defendant took his children to his family's home, asked his brother to contact the police, and then sat on the front step of his house smoking and drinking coffee with the gun in his hand.
The defendant claimed in court he killed his wife to "cleanse his honour after he became suspicious the child was not his since his wife did not inform him immediately of her pregnancy. He brought one of his wife's friends to testify in court that the victim had been engaged in immoral relations and had a bad reputation. The court, however, rejected the assertions after DNA tests proved the defendant was the biological father of the baby.
The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) and UNDP are spearheading a coalition of national and international organizations in Egypt in a campaign to stop a practice that blights the lives of millions of women, after a survey revealed that 97% of Egyptian women have undergone FGM. The three-year $2.6 million initiative seeks to end FGM in 60 villages Upper Egypt. However the campaign faces tough challenges in trying to change social attitudes as FGM is deeply rooted in tradition, religious beliefs and many families believe the practice will preserve the chastity of young women and stop promiscuous behaviour. The initiative aims to overcome community peer pressure and convince families not to subject their girls to FGM. It will use various educational and training approaches to reach out to families, community leaders, health workers and religious leaders and encourage them to work together to eliminate the practice. The campaign will also air broadcasts on national television and radio and promote networking among local civil society groups, community leaders, the NCCM and government agencies.
Young Iranian women from villages near the southeast city of Shiraz burnt themselves to death last month because their families refused to let them go out to work. The five, aged between 14 and 23, died in hospital after burning themselves.
Iranian women in smaller towns and villages, where traditional and religious customs are stronger, enjoy less freedom than women in the larger cities. Half the population is aged under 30, putting cultural and Islamic restrictions under severe pressure.
The UK: Asian women's conference resolutions - March 2003 Dreams, Questions and Struggles Custody Law The legal system lacks an analysis of race and cultural issues. It claims an awareness of race and culture but this is being used to support Asian men's access to parental contact. More damage is being done by 'cultural awareness'. We need to confront this. The women's movement needs a network in every town and city and access to feminist barristers. We resolve to build this network. Women need to arm themselves with knowledge of their rights in the context of family law. We resolve to produce and distribute materials to this end. Work Women lack knowledge of their rights at work. This information must be made available to workers in their own languages. We resolve to distribute a rights leaflet in places of work and have discussions with workers. We will collate a dossier on incidents where representative bodies like Unions/ CREs have failed Asian women workers. We resolve to publicise Asian women workers' struggles, which are going on. We will set up a network of Asian women taking up issues in employment. We resolve to pressurise the unions to disseminate information about rights at work to Asian women workers and to have more representation for Asian women We resolve to access the policy action infrastructure via the notion of social exclusion. We resolve to lobby for more positive action programmes enabling Asian women to access employment Education We demand well-funded comprehensive education for our children, which is equal both at the point of access and the point of delivery and does not involve selection. We are extremely concerned about the level of racism in schools; at present the rise of anti-Muslim racism is particularly disturbing. We resolve to campaign for the development and implementation of anti-racist policies, which tackle institutionalised racism. We distrust the government's proposals on increasing the number of single faith schools and are particularly concerned about the way these will reinforce patriarchal power in our communities and transfer control over education to religious institutions and bodies. Funding of Asian Women's Groups We are deeply concerned about the withdrawal of funds of a number of women's organisations and resolve to collectively lobby for the support of these organisations. Domestic Violence and No recourse to Public Fund Although we welcome the relaxation of the standard of proof of domestic violence in cases of women migrating to live with partners settled in the UK, the probationary period tips the balance of power in marriages against the women and their children making them more vulnerable to intimidation and violence. Women (and their children) are under tremendous pressure because of the probationary period to remain in violent marriages, and violence in such relationships is known to escalate with time. We demand that the probationary period be abolished and women be informed about their rights. We demand that the names, addresses and telephone numbers of organisations they can contact if they face domestic violence or abuse should be given to them when they first enter the UK to join their partners. Women who try to leave violent and life-threatening relationships are often forced back into them because they have no recourse to public funds. This makes them destitute in the period when they try to claim the right of appeal against deportation, which the state guarantees. This is both discriminatory and inconsistent and we demand a repeal of the rules on 'no recourse to public funds'. And we demand that this be applied to women without children as well as those with children. Interim measures: We resolve to lobby Women's Aid to make it a rule that every refuge must take at least one 'no recourse to public funds' case. The current policy of classifying as 'overstayers' those women who are unable to regularise their position immediately after the probationary period ends is unjust and is in effect 'punishing the victim'. We demand that women in this position be allowed to appeal under the conditions of the November 2002 Domestic Violence Rule. Many Social Services Departments across the country have excluded children from their rights under the Children Act or interpreted the Act to the detriment of children's welfare. We demand that the government draws up guidelines for Social Services departments on this issue. We demand that the Supporting People Initiative recognises women with no recourse to public funds. Mental Health We resolve to share experiences and instances of good practice and further early interventative and preventative work as a means to empowering, educating and supporting young women. We resolve to set up a network of Asian women taking up mental health issues which will include users and survivors, practitioners and workers in Asian women's support organisations. We will work towards a day of action, communication and publicity on World Mental Health Day in October 2003 to raise awareness of these issues The War We condemn Bush and Blair's drive to war on Iraq - we know that it will have a devastating effect on women in Iraq who have already faced the onslaught of ten years of sanctions and undeclared war. We also condemn the government's use of the so-called war on terror to legitimise an upsurge in state racism. We resolve to build Asian women's participation in the Anti-War movement and to send delegates to the Stop the War People's Assembly on 12 March. South Asia We condemn the activities of communal, sectarian and fascist forces, which are fomenting hatred and violence in the countries of South Asia and dividing our communities here. We resolve to oppose all fundraising in Britain for such forces. We support the demands of women's organisations in India campaigning to bring the perpetrators of the Gujarat genocide to justice and for safety, security and legal redress for the victims. We are extremely concerned that funds raised in this country are being channelled to organisations in India, which are orchestrating communal violence (as was exposed in a Channel 4 News Report on 12/12/02). We resolve to campaign for the de-recognition of the HSS/ Sewa International and VHP(UK) as registered charities and expose the communal and anti-women activities of these organisations. Forthcoming Events We resolve to organise a one day conference on the British state's interventions in our lives, focussing particularly on the no recourse to public funds legislation and the interventions in the context of 'forced marriages' and single faith schools. The conference would also provide a space for us to exchange ideas on how we see women's oppression. It would be held in the first week of July, in Manchester or Sheffield
Amongst the numerous social, political and economic crises undermining civil rights and institutions, a key issue has been the implementation of the Sharia Criminal Penal Code in Northern Nigeria and the extension of sharia law to criminal matters. This has led to the introduction of whipping, stoning and amputation into the penal code and the stimulation of national and international debate on the law particularly in relation to gender, as it does not adequately protect the rights of women. Abuse, violence and discrimination against women go unpunished as they are wrongly considered to be socially acceptable and in addition to this, the testimony of women is devalued and treated as that of a minor or person without necessary legal capacity. In the last two years three major cases that have violated women's rights have attracted international and public condemnation. Sharia law offers no flexibility for cases of seduction of minors or rape and essentially permits men to rape women, seduce or assault minors, or even impregnate them in the course of a relationship and then deny responsibility and watch them face a death sentence. Discrimination against women has also manifested in policy and law making. For instance women in Zamfara State in northern Nigeria were, for a period, prevented from travelling in public transport and in Tarata Mafara local government, single women were given a three month ultimatum to get married or face being sacked from jobs in the civil service. These examples constitute rights violations under Nigerian law and specific punishments need to be stipulated for the violations of women's rights.
In the case of Amina Lawal a mother sentenced to death by stoning, a date for the appeal has been secured, on March the 24th. Lawal appears prepared to wait until the case makes its way up the legal ladder, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Her legal team will push on her behalf. It is feared that any verdict will be enormously significant, not just for Ms. Lawal, but for the future of a country. If the Sharia court of appeal ultimately upholds the verdict of the lower courts, Lawal would be the first Nigerian to be executed under the Islamic code. However, if no decision is made in the current courtroom, the case can proceed to a federal non-Sharia court and ultimately to the Nigerian Supreme Court where it is believed the President would spare Lawal's life.
The spiritual leader of Malaysia's main Islamic opposition party, PAS, has called for people convicted of sex outside of marriage to be stoned to death in public. Recently, Malaysia announced that it would not bring in the death penalty for those convicted of rape and incest involving children, as had originally been proposed. PAS has welcomed moves by the government to bring in tougher sentencing for sex offenders but says they don't go far enough.
Those found guilty of rape or incest will face whipping and up to 30 years in jail. But PAS' spiritual leader, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, says the new laws are not in accordance with Islam and he wants rapists to be publicly stoned to death. He says it is important that the people see the pain of those being stoned so that they can learn from it. He believes stoning in private would not act as a deterrent. His party has been trying to bring in strict Islamic laws known as Hudud laws in the two states that it controls but has been blocked by the national government.
Nik Aziz, who is also chief minister of the state of Kelantan, once decreed that the state should only employ ugly women because pretty ones could find husbands.
A rights group said recently that it was shocked at the public humiliation of a woman councilor beaten and paraded naked through a village on the orders of a powerful landlord.
The incident happened in December 2002 in a village near Sialkot, an industrial town north of Lahore. It said in an ordeal that lasted several hours, the woman, the widowed mother of seven, was beaten, stripped and paraded naked through the village by the landlord and his sons after she refused to back his candidate in a local election.
Kamila Hyat, director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said the incident was not the first of its kind. According to her at least four similar cases have been reported this year. These incidents are indicative of the inferior status of women in Islamic, male-dominated Pakistan.
Earlier, a woman was gang-raped on the orders of a traditional jury in a village in the Punjab province. A Pakistani court later sentenced six men to death for the rape, in a trial, which highlighted the abuse of women in rural areas.
Around 150 teachers, 80 percent of the teaching staff from a school in the French city of Lyon went on strike over a Muslim pupil's insistence on wearing a headscarf, in the latest example of strained relations with followers of Islam in France. The strike took place at the Lamartiniere-Duchere secondary school. According to a spokesman for the teachers, the protest aimed to alert public opinion on the need to respect secularism and to underline the need to clarify legislation. Tolerances of Islamic customs in countries like France, a secular state, has been strained by the September 11/2001 attacks and the hunt for members of terrorist Islamic groups. Five millions of Muslims origin live in France.
A plenary session of Council for Secular Humanism's three-day conference: "One Nation without God?" "Secularism, Society & Justice"
The conference will be held on 11-13 April 2003 in Washington D C - USA. World -class, internationally known speakers will be heard at this conference. The plenary session on secularism and Islam will be held on Saturday 12 April from 9.00-12.00.
This unique conference features prominent activists, authors, journalists, and thinkers who will discuss many of the tensions between religion and secularism that are shaping current events.
Azam Kamguian coordinator and spokesperson for "Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East" will speak at this conference.
Other speakers include: Ibn Warraq, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Irfan Khawaja, Fatemolla, Armen Saginian Chair: Paul Kurtz
For more information please visit CSH's web site at www.secularhumanism.org/conference
Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East is pleased to launch its new web site. Please visit our web sit at www.middleastwomen.org and let us know about your comments and views.
To: U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against WomenFrom: The Freedom 400
Re: Complaint regarding the stoning of women as an international human rights violation and request that the United Nations take action to eliminate the practice.
Complainants are women and men from around the world organised by The Freedom 400, a group of women in Phoenix, AZ, USA. The purpose of The Freedom 400 is to increase awareness worldwide about stoning to end this violation of women’s rights. The primaries of The Freedom 400 are:
Media Liaison Administrative Liaison
Contact info: Contact info:
Dianne Post Donna Sarda
Legal Liaison Grassroots Liaison
1826 E Willetta St Contact Info:
Phoenix, AZ 85006-3047
An additional 52 signers from 12 countries are included in an appendix.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women is a “special procedure” under the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The Special Rapporteur has jurisdiction to accept and investigate this complaint because, as a arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the duties of that office are: “The mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is to protect and promote all human rights for all.” Mission Statement, Geneva, 2000. The mandate derives from Articles 1, 13, and 55 of the Charter of the United Nations, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and Assembly resolution 48/141 of 20 December 1993. The functions of the office include “(d) Stimulates and co-ordinates action for human rights throughout the United Nations system; … (h) responds to serious violations of human rights; (i) undertakes preventive human rights action; … (k) undertakes human rights field activities and operations.” The complaint asks that the Special Rapporteur, by taking the requested action, protect and promote human rights, stimulate and co-ordinate action against the violation of human rights, respond to serious violations and undertake preventive measures, and undertake a field activity i.e. investigation into the phenomena.
In addition, in resolution 48/141, the General Assembly listed the High Commissioner’s specific responsibilities which include, inter alia, …”to play an active role in removing the obstacles to full realisation of human rights and in preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world; … to engage in a dialogue with Governments in order to secure respect for human rights…” By acting on the complaint, the Special Rapporteur will be removing obstacles to the realisation of human rights and must engage in dialogue with the governments in question to secure respect for human rights.
Stoning of women still takes place in several countries. Those we are focusing on are Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan. However, the complaint should be read to apply to any country where women are stoned.
The stoning of women took place under the Taliban in Afghanistan. (The crisis in Afghanistan: When will Gender Apartheid End?, Ayoub, 7 Tulsa J.Comp. & Int’l. 513 (2000). However, even today, many women, especially in Herat, don’t live much better than they did under the Taliban.
In January 2003, it was claimed that the Iranian judiciary had suspended the punishment of death by stoning for adultery. (In Iran, adulterers spared stoning, The Asia Times, N. Janardham, January 13, 2003) But Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi told visiting European Union Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten on 3 February 2003 that executions by stoning are seen as a way to protect the family and state and the country and the country has no intention of stopping stoning. (Stonings will continue to protect the Family, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, by Bill Samii, February 10, 2003)
Not only stoning itself but even the procedures for stoning discriminate against women. Men are buried up to their waists so there is some hope of escape. Women are buried up to their shoulders. (Janardham supra) An Amnesty International report could only confirm two stonings but unofficial figures put it at 70 women who were accused of adultery. The Women’s Committee of Iran on October 23, 2002 stated that 18 of 26 people sentenced to stoning during Khatami’s presidency were women. Four women were in prison at that time awaiting stoning. In 1998, of 7 people sentenced to stoning, 5 were women (Women’s Human Rights in Iran: What can the International Human Rights System do? Javaherian, 40 Santa Clara L. Rev. 819 (2000) Men are rarely punished for adultery because they can easily claim that they were “temporarily married”, since they are allowed to have multiple wives. Women however cannot have multiple husbands so cannot claim this excuse.
Even not wearing a veil could make a woman subject to stoning. (Women in Iran: Obstacles to Human Rights and Possible Solutions, Graves, 5 Am. U.J.Gender & L. 57, 1996).
In Nigeria, once again a high state court has upheld the lower court decision to stone Amina Lawal to death when her child is weaned. (Press release, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women, August 27, 2002)
The Grand Khadi Aminu Ibraham Katsina, the judge, said the case was simple and stoning would be a deterrent to fornicators even though the constitution forbids capital punishment. (As Stoning Case Proceeds, Nigeria stands Trial, January 26, 2003, Somini Sengupta, New York Times)
The Pakistani government promulgated the Hadood Ordinances, which provide for stoning to death for adultery. (Islamic Law in Sudan: A Comparative Analysis, Benedict, 5 ILSA J.Int’l & Comp. L. 1, 1998).
As recently as February 2003, a girl was stoned to death in Sindh, Pakistan for dancing at a wedding. (Karachi, INRFVVP, March 03, 2003)
In Saudi Arabia, adultery is punished by execution through stoning. (Islamic Law in Sudan: A Comparative Analysis, Benedict, 5 ILSA J.Int’l & Comp. L. 1, 1998).
In Hargeisa, five women suspected of prostitution were stoned to death, after having been buried up to the neck. (Islamic Law in Sudan: A Comparative Analysis, Benedict, 5 ILSA J.Int’l & Comp. L. 1, 1998).
The Sudan 1991 Criminal Act requires death by stoning for adulterers.
The law of Sudan violates the prohibition against cruel and inhuman punishment because it allows inhuman punishments such as amputations and stoning to death. (Human Dignity Denied: Slavery, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity in Sudan, Saunders, Mantilla, 51 Cath.U.L.Rev. 715 (2002). In 1994, the Special Rapporteur on the Sudan, Gaspar Biro, said that so-called Islamic punishments such as stoning to death for the crime of adultery, ran contrary to the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of punishment found in Article 7 of the ICCPR. (Symposium: Religion’s Role in the Administration of the Death Penalty, Schabas, 9 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 223 (2000).
Stoning, as a punishment for alleged crime, violates at least the following international laws: International Human Rights Declaration, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The fact that a country has or has not ratified a particular international convention does not mean the body of law does not apply to that country. Certain fundamental norms of international law are recognised by the international community as just cogent. (Burns H. Weston et al., International Law and World Order (1997)). These norms constitute the foundation of the international legal order; every state must obey them.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 provides that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. As explained infra, stoning is torture under the international definition.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights opened for signature December 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force March 23, 1976, and acceded to by Afghanistan January 24, 1983) (ICCPR)
Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Afghanistan have signed and ratified the ICCPR.
Article 2 requires that each state party undertakes to respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognised in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The way stoning is implemented discriminates against women based on sex. See further discussion infra.
Article 3 requires equal rights for men and women. Yet stoning is not implemented equally for both genders neither in the persons chosen for stoning nor in the method of stoning.
Article 7 – No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Stoning fits the definition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment infra.
Article 14 – All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. See articles 2 and 3 above.
Article 26 – All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. See article 2 and 3 above.
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women G.A. Res. 34/180/ U.N. Doc. A/34/46 (entered into force September 3, 1981
Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan have signed CEDAW.
Article 2 of the Convention requires that States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms …and … undertake (c ) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men … (d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation; (f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women; (g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.
Yet Article 102 of the Islamic Punishment Act in Iran stipulates: “A man must be buried up to his waist and a woman up to her breast in a ditch and then be stoned.” Obviously women and men do not have equal protection under the law.
Article 5 – States Parties shall take all appropriate measures: (a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;
When 18 of 26 people sentenced to stoning were women, it becomes obvious that the law is not being equally applied and that cultural patterns of conduct for men and women are different. Men are allowed to have extramarital affairs while women are not.
Article 15 (1) States Parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, G.A. Res. 39/46, annex, 39, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (entered into force June 26, 1987, and ratified by Afghanistan April 1, 1987).
Nigeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia have signed the Convention. Afghanistan has signed but does not recognise jurisdiction within its own borders.
Article 1 – “torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, … or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind,
Article 104 of the Law of Hodoud (Iran) provides that the stones should not be so large that a person dies after being hit with two of them, nor so small as to be defined as pebbles, but must cause severe injury. Thus it is clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict grievous pain and suffering. Often the children are forced to watch which is inflicting severe pain or suffering on the innocent.
Article 2 – (2) No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. Thus the fact that a woman may have committed adultery is not a reason to justify neither torture nor the alleged “protection of the family”.
Article 14 (1) In the event of death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependants shall be entitled to compensation.
Article 16 requires states parties to prevent cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when committed by or with the acquiescence of a public official. The convention further obliges states to take specific steps – education, monitoring, complaint procedures, investigations – to prevent such treatment. The governments are fully acquiescent in this violation, as they are the arresting, prosecuting, and sentencing bodies as well as those who actually carry out the stoning.
Article 20 – If the Committee receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in the territory of a State Party, the Committee shall invite that State Party to co-operate in the examination of the information and to this end to submit observations with regard to the information concerned. Thus the Special Rapporteur can request that the state parties of Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia co-operate in the examination of this problem.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Investigation
We ask that the U. N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women undertake a field activity i.e. investigation into stoning in order to protect and promote human rights, stimulate and co-ordinate action against the violation of human rights, and respond to serious violations and undertake preventive measures.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, and Sudan have signed the ICC.
The individual perpetrators can be indicted for “crimes against humanity” under the International Criminal Court. “Crimes against humanity” is defined as prohibited acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population. The acts include murder and persecution on gender grounds. “Crimes against humanity” can be punished even if it took place in peacetime. The court specifically addresses gender-based violence because of its widespread use as a weapon to inflict terror and to humiliate and degrade women.
The definition of “crimes against humanity” is in Article 7: Crimes against humanity
… Any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: (a) murder; (f) torture; (h) Persecution against any identifiable group based on … ethnic, cultural, religious, gender… (k) other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
(2) (a) “attack directed against any civilian population” means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts referred to in paragraph I against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy to commit such attack; As the statistics show, the attack is directed at a civilian population, there are multiple offences, and the action is in furtherance of State policy allegedly to “protect the family”. “The family” is not a unitary concept. It is made up of different people. All of these individuals have rights. Different UN conventions focus on different parts of the family. CEDAW focuses on the women and specifically states that marriage shall be an equal relationship. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child focuses on the child’s right to due process and equal protection independent of its parents and their actions. Thus the law has recognised that the individuals within the family have special needs and need special laws to protect their rights. The umbrella rubric “the family", in a patriarchal society, means that the “head” of the family, the husband, is the one whose rights are enforced.
(e) “torture” means the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused; except that torture shall not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions; The law proscribing the size of the stones to inflict maximum pain and suffering shows that the intent is to inflict severe pain or suffering. Thus it is torture.
(g) “Persecution” means the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity; While stoning does apply to men, and is equally a violation of international law, the overwhelming numbers of victims are female showing that the persecution is based on identify in a group i.e. women.
Article 15 (a) states that the Prosecutor may initiate investigation proprio motu on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. Therefore, we request that in addition to doing your own investigation, you submit this information and the information obtained in your investigation to the Prosecutor of the ICC for prosecution of the perpetrators.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
We request that the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women ask the Committee on Torture to investigate this matter and request that the state parties of Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia co-operate in the examination of this problem.
Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East Coordinator & Spokesperson: Azam Kamguian