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Monday, April 5, 2010

Dubai brings sexual abuse of children into the open

Although the number of children affected cannot be verified, it is believed that there has been a rise of cases of abused children in the UAE. On Thursday, 1st April, in attempts to create awareness, the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children launches a month-long Protect Childhood Campaign in schools, businesses and malls to speak with people about what they can do to protect children. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Malaysia drops caning sentence for beer-drinking Malysia women

On Thursday, Reuters reported that Malaysia has officially dropped a caning sentence imposed on women for drinking beer, a practice which has raised concerns about intolerance in the Muslim country. 

According to Reuters, the canings reflected growing conservatism in the country and was beginning to become of concern to investors.

Malaysia practices a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family law applicable to Muslims and non-Muslims, who comprise about 45% of the population, are subject to civil law.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Iranian gays increasingly fleeing their country

According to The Washington Post, about 300 gay people have fled Iran since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president and particularly after June's crackdown. Many of them have reportedly joined the 2,000 Iranian dissidents and political refugees in secular Turkey, where homosexuality is tolerated. Refugees in Turkey are dispersed throughout various smaller cities as they seek permanent asylum through the UN in countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Others experiencing pressure from the Iranian government are student groups, journalists, human rights activists, and artists.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Belgium moves to ban burqa and niqab in public

It seems that Belgium is not following suit (France, the Netherlands) to ban burqa and niqab in public. 

According to The Guardian, the Home affairs committee of Brussels federal parliament voted unanimously to ban partial or total covering of faces in public. 

"It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society."

If the vote is ratified in April, as expected, Belgium will become the first European country to ban the burqa and niqab in public.

Major Development, France: PM against total Islamic veil ban

On Tuesday, the French Prime Minister advised the government that any total ban on face-covering Islamic veils could be unconstitutional. (I am in complete agreement here. The ban encroaches on human rights.) 

According to BBC, Prime Minister Francois Fillon asked the State Council for a legal opinion before drawing up a law on the subject. The State Council said a ban could be justified in some public places. Moreover, those drafting the legislation could ignore Tuesday's ruling, which stipulates that any law could be in violation of the French constitution as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

What do you think? Should the law be passed or not?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Special Report by WFUNA: Human Rights Council discusses the problem of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance are a concern to all peoples and countries. For this reason the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, whose mandate is to make recommendations with a view of the effective implementation of the declaration and programme of action, held its session in October 2009. 

The Human Rights Council Tuesday afternoon opened its discussion and held a general debated on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. The Council heard the presentations by the Chairpersons of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. 
A Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had submitted the report on its 7th session to the Human Rights Council, pursuant to Resolution 11/12 of 18 June 2009. The Report contained summaries of the deliberation of the Working Group as well as adopted conclusions and recommendations.
It was noted that the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference, together with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, provides the most comprehensive.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Women's Rights, Saudi Arabia: Placing more emphasis on working women

It seems that Saudi Arabia is moving towards change, highlighting women in this significant development. My first thought upon reading about this was: the economy.. it must the desire to develop the economy and sees this as an essential step in that direction. Women are largely an untapped resource. 

According to Bloomberg, King Abdullah is pushing to raise women's employment in a country where only 15% of the labor force is female. More working women would give Saudi and international companies higher-skilled employees, since almost 60% of Saudi university students are women, and help Saudi Arabia diversify from energy by building technical skills.

"By including more women in the labor force, you increase productivity" and thus add jobs to the economy, said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi. "By employing them, the government will get a return on its investment in education."

Moreover Abdullah is promoting women's rights as part of a broader drive to rein in the influence of the clerical establishment, which controls the educational and legal system in a country where unemployment for those between ages 15 and 24 is 25%. The king is establishing a new commercial courts outside the existing judiciary, which follows Islamic Sharia law, and promoting science and technology under a five-year unveiled in 2005 to enhance job skills. 

That said, Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban, president of the government-run Saudi Human Rights Commission, states that the kingdom's form of Islam means progress will be slow. It forbids mixing among unrelated people of opposite sexes, requires women to get a male relative's permission to work and prohibits women from driving a car.

I have to say that I appreciated Mr. al-Aiban's comment: "It's piecemeal, one step at a time. We're an Islamic society that has its own traditions, which most families, not the government, would adhere to." I definitely agree. One step at a time. And, well, progress is progress even if it is slow to come. I see this as smart economics where women's rights benefit.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Women's Rights, Yemen: Women protest child bride law

On Sunday 21 March in Yemen, hundreds of women gathered in front of Sana'as's parliament building to protest for their rights, specifically against the government establishing a minimum legal age for marriage.

According to The National, most of the protesters carried the Quran and some held posters that said such a requirement for marriage went against sharia, or Islamic law. "Yes to the sharia rights of Muslim woman," read one poster. 

Following the demonstrations on Sunday, hundreds of Yemeni women held a counter protest on Monday outside Yemen's parliament building in support of the legislation. "No to the abuse of childhood, prevention of happiness and usurpation of life," one poster read. "Setting an age for marriage is a legal, humanitarian and developmental necessity," said another. 

The demonstrations came in the wake of a measure first approved by parliament last year, which stipulated that parents who marry off their daughters before the age of 17 and sons before 18 could face a year in jail or be fined US$500 (Dh1,800). 

According to Ms. Hooria Mashhoor, the vice chairwoman of the Woman's National Committee, "The speaker of the parliament names a committee to sit down and talk with the MPs who repealed the minimum age article. He suggested that the committee can discuss with these MPs that the marriage age remains as it is but the fine on the parents violating it can be removed. Some of the delegates, however, refused. We will see what comes up."

Depending on your viewpoint, this can be seen as an issue of the rights of a child and/or the rights of a woman. That said, even if it is perceived as as a case of the rights of a woman, it can still be argued from either side as some women support the law and some don't. I decline from taking a side; however, if I had to comment, I would have to say something along the lines of: If a girl, or even boy, is under the age of 16, she is considered a child. Anything under that I do not believe a girl or boy should be getting married or having children. They typically have not even finished puberty before that age. But, that is only my opinion. Thus, that said, girls and boys all over the world are having sex and even babies before the age of 16. So, as I have already stated, I decline to take any side.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rights of the Child: abuse on the internet

Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in the world. Although their rights should be actively protected, often these rights are far from being respected. 

In efforts to fight child abuse on the internet the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has joined a group of international law enforcement agencies and plans to eventually prohibit anyone with a record for paedophilia from entering the country. According to The National, the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), established in 2003 to fight online child abuse, aims to dismantle global paedophile networks, co-ordinate cover internet investigations, share and develop intelligence and target sex offenders. As a member, the Ministry of Interior will focus on spreading awareness about online child abuse, introducing and enforcing legislation, joining global operations, developing monitoring tools and establishing a national child helpline. Major Gen Nasser al Naimi, the secretary general of Minister of Interior's office, who represents the UAE on the VGT, said he believed the partnership would "reinforce the country's position to protect the rights of the child".

Child pornography on the internet is a form of sexual exploitation using media. Children are victims on over 4 million sites, with an increase, and predators are increasingly connected. Still some countries only take into the age of consent and have not enforced protection measures. This can be contributed to lack of information available and cost. Strategies to combat child pornography are lacking and weak, they lack cooperation and coordination between developed and developing countries, and child pornography continues to develop and is becoming a very profitable industry. Considering child porn is a crime and a grave violation of the rights of child, States are recommended to adopt legislation such as that done by the UAE. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Water is Precious: Raise Awareness - World Water Day

All human beings have the right to access to and to safe and clean water. Yesterday, 22 March, marked World Water Day, held annually as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. And this is definitely much needed attention.

 "The sheer scale of dirty water means more people now die from contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including waters," said the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Moreover, the two million tons of waste, which contaminates over two billion tons of water daily, has left huge "dead zones" that choke coral reefs and fish.

"Day after day, we pour millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste into the world's water systems. Clean water has become scarce and will become even scarcer with the onset of climate change" said Secretary Ban Ki-moon in his message for the day, which this year focuses on "Clean Water for a Healthy World" as its theme. In his message, Mr. Ban stressed that water is vitally linked to all UN development goals, including maternal and child health and life expectancy, women's empowerment, food security, sustainable development and climate change adaptation and migration. As such, the General Assembly recognized 2005-2015 as the International Decade for Action "Water for Life". 

Read UNEP's "Sick Water" for World Water Day and Clearing the Waters: A focus on Water Quality Solutions, a publication which found that repairing key water and sewage networks can not only secure water supplies, but also lower pollution and boost employment.

Access to clean water and adequate sanitation are an inalienable human right. Moreover, they are a prerequisite for lifting people out of poverty. 

Water is taken for granted. Please be aware of the water you use and the water you might be wasting. Water is precious!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Women's Rights, Afghanistan: Women fear loss of progress

The issue of women's rights in Afghanistan is resurfacing as Afghanistan's future remains uncertain. 

'Afghan women fear loss of hard-won progress'. According to The Washington Post, the head-to-toe burqas that made women a faceless symbol of the Taliban's violently repressive rule are no longer required here. But many Afghan women say they still feel voiceless eight years into a war-torn democracy, and they point to government plans to forge peace with the Taliban as a prime example. It seems that although gender activists have been pressing the administration of President Hamid Karzai for a part in the any deal-making with Taliban fighters and leaders, they have not yet been approached by the government. This is reportedly largely due to the belief that women are not important, a mind-set which is still inherent in Afghanistan. 

The Washington Post reports that the Taliban's repressive treatment of women helped galvanize international opposition in the 1990s, and by some measures democracy has revolutionized Afghan women's lives. Their worry now is not about a Taliban takeover, but that male leaders, behind closed doors and desperate for pace, might not force Taliban leaders to accept, however grudgingly, that women's roles have changed.

So I think it would be stating the obvious to say that women's rights are again in quite a precarious position. (Although one could argue that women's violence remains a regular occurrence in Afghanistan.)  Peace and security again (And I would personally say 'as usual', though I would also personally place peace and security over my own rights.) take precedence over rights, and in this case women's rights.

Special Report by WFUNA: The process of adopting the outcomes of the 6th Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

The Human Rights Council has started the process of adopting the outcome of the 6th Universal Periodic Review held in late 2009. On Wednesday 17 March, the council reviewed several Countries: Eritrea, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Norway, and Albania.
The Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Eritrea after a hearing statements from States and NGOs. During this discussion, speakers noted that Eritrea was the victim of an unfair international economic order and they commended the country for work on the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people within this context. Eritrea's decision to allow official visits by international human rights organisations was  welcomed by the international community.

An issue of concern was the fact that the Government is seen to continue to arbitrarily arrest, detain, abuse and torture political dissidents, religious adherents and independent journalists. Some noted with concern that  the criminalisation of consensual same-sex interaction is still in place in Eritrea.
Cyprus is considered to take its international commitments seriously, particularly with regard to human rights, and that among States under Review was potentially the most promising. The State has accepted the overwhelming majority of recommendations however some of them, such as those relating to migrant workers and their families, were not accepted. Cyprus was concerned that a number of recommendations were linked not to human rights but to the country's political environment. The rights of children and the issue of gender equality were of prime concern.
The international community found that efforts made by the Dominican Republic were truly outstanding ones. The Dominican Republic accepted the majority of the recommendations coming out of its review (67 out of 73). The country highlighted its plans on the issues of inequality (a plan on national equality and gender equity), education, illicit smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons. Members of the Council welcomed the measures the Dominican Republic had taken to help families in a precarious situation, to eradicate hunger and to tackle poverty.
The Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Norway on Wednesday afternoon. 16 recommendations out of 39 were not accepted by the country. Norway was commended by the members of the Council for its efforts to eliminate cultural discrimination, domestic violence, human rights education. Norway's international priorities are the following: to continue to protect human rights internationally, which includes protections of human rights defenders, freedom of expression and efforts to combat capital punishment, torture and all forms of discrimination.

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