the global campaign to stop stoning and killing women!

About the Campaign

The Global Campaign: 'Stop Stoning and Killing Women!'

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is launching the Global Campaign 'Stop Stoning and Killing Women!' to end the persistent misuse of religion and culture to justify killing women as punishment for violating the 'norms' of sexual behaviour as defined and imposed by vested interests.

This Campaign is inspired by and grows out of women's struggles in their own locations to combat various manifestations of this phenomenon, for instance in Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria. The Campaign will support and enable women's rights advocates, national and transnational women's movements to resist those forces which politicize and mis-use culture and religion for subjugating women and the abuse of their human rights.

Stoning to death has been introduced as a legal form of punishment for sexual intercourse outside of marriage, usually by persons who are married, as zina (which covers sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage) is a crime in Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria (about one-third among 36 states), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. While the penalty has never been carried out by the state in either Pakistan or Iraq, incidents of stoning have been carried out by communities, seemingly encouraged by the existence of the punishment in law.

In May 2007, one such incidence was recorded and the disturbing video footage of a girl being stoned to death in Iraq began to circulate via the Internet. As this video demonstrates all too clearly, stoning is a particularly cruel and dehumanising punishment involving a slow and painful process until death, and takes place in public. Significantly, this public stoning occurred in a non-Muslim community. Recent cases of stoning by state authorities have mostly occurred in Iran, where stoning is not limited to 'adultery.' In May 2006, a man and a woman were stoned to death in Mashhad, Iran. A month later, Ashraf Kalhori was handed an official 15-day notification of her impending execution by stoning. Most recently, on July 5, 2007, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Aghche-kand village near Takistan, Ghazvin in Iran. Nine others, currently in Iranian prisons, await similar fates, including Kiani's partner for alleged 'adultery.'

Despite there being no mention of stoning in the Quran, the practice has come to be associated with Islam and Muslim culture. In fact, stoning is a highly debated topic within the Muslim religious community: reputable Iranian clerics, such as Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, Ayatollah Yousef Saneii and Ayatollah Seyyed Mohamamd Mousavi Bojnourdi, have spoken out against it. Others, in several countries, have led lively theological debates to convey that the practice is not Islamic.

Sentences to death by stoning have been overturned after strong national and international protests in the UAE. In Nigeria, no stonings have been carried out because local women's and human rights groups worked successfully together to support and defend those convicted of adultery with the result that all they were all acquitted in the sharia state courts of appeal. After several such acquittals and subsequent international support and protests, currently, the local state authorities have not been prosecuting allegations of adultery.

Today, with the advent and propagation of political Islam and other forms of religious extremism, stoning and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of women have been increasing in many parts of the world. With the establishment of the Sharia court in Aceh, Indonesia, women are now subject to caning or whipping for the alleged 'crimes' of 'relationships outside of marriage'(zina) and 'improper Islamic dress.' In Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Sudan and certain regions of Indonesia, the trend towards political Islam is accompanied by a disturbing rise in the control of women's bodies in the name of religion and culture.

Such violently oppressive treatment of women is by no means limited to Muslim societies. While the media tends to present so-called 'honour crimes' (which have the most dis-honourable intention of harming women) as predominantly prevalent in Muslim countries, documented cases testify to thousands of women being murdered every year, the world over, in the name of 'family honour'. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights acknowledges that so-called 'honour' killings have occurred in Great Britain, Brazil, India, Ecuador, Israel, Italy, Sweden, and Uganda as well as in Muslim nations such as Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, and Morocco. In Latin America, 'crimes of passion' committed by men are not classified as murders and are instead treated leniently or completely excused. The abuse of women's human rights cuts across boundaries, cultures and religions.

The killing of women - under any pretext - is a grave and serious violation of International Human Rights Law. So-called 'honour crimes' are disturbing examples of how local laws and customs, embedded within highly patriarchal value-systems, consistently assign more guilt to women than to men in any act perceived to violate 'norms' of sexual behaviour. Women constitute nearly all the known victims of violent punishments like stoning, whipping or other brutal, cruel or sadistic punishments for such supposed transgressions. Indeed, the majority of people killed in the name of 'honour' are women.

The Global Campaign: Stop Stoning and Killing Women!, initiated to address this intensifying trend of cultural and religious legitimisation of lethal violence against women, will:

The Campaign reiterates the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Professor Dr. Yakin Ertürk, in her January 2007 Report: Intersections between Culture and Violence against Women'*

Together with the international community, we can put an end to stoning and all other practices that prevent women from maintaining their bodily integrity, human rights, and human dignity.

The Campaign 'Stop Stoning and Killing Women!' will be launched on 26 November 2007, at 10 AM, in Istanbul (Santral Istanbul, Bilgi University).

Speakers at the launch include: Shadi Sadr (Iran), Ayesha Imam (Nigeria), Sri Wiyanti Eddyono (Indonesia), Nebahat Akkoç (Turkey), Yakin Ertürk (UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women), and Farida Shaheed (Pakistan) will chair the launch.

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[*] Report: "Intersections between Culture and Violence against Women" (A/HRC/4/34), 17 January 2007.