News and Views by Region
Afghanistan: Making Peace With The Taliban At The Cost of Women’s Rights
Massouda Jalal is a psychiatrist and paediatrician based in Afghanistan. After the fall of in 2001, she emerged as a powerful voice of Afghan women and later contested the 2004 elections as a presidential candidate. Jalal was minister for women's affairs in the Hamid Karzai government for a brief while. As director of Jalal Foundation, she travels across to champion women's empowerment and rights. She spoke to Ashima Kaul.
India: Infant Sex Selection on Rise, Despite Stricter Law
When Sujatha’s husband learned that she had conceived just five months after they got married, he became agitated over what he called her "ill-timed pregnancy". To worsen her husband’s anxiety, a test to determine the sex of the foetus showed she was carrying a girl.
Sujatha, a public school teacher, and her husband, a civil engineer – who asked that their full names be withheld – are from well-off and educated families in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the southern state of Kerala. Yet they dared violate the law, approaching doctors at the Sree Avittam Thirunal Hospital for an abortion; they were granted one within a month.
Outrage as 'Obedient Wives Club' spreads across south-east Asia
A women's group that aims to teach Muslim wives how to "keep their spouses happy in the bedroom" is taking root in south-east Asia, prompting outrage from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The Obedient Wives Club (OWC), which has chapters in Malaysia, Indonesia and and intends to open in London and Paris later this year, says it intends to curb various social problems, including prostitution and gambling, by showing Muslim wives how to "be submissive and keep their spouses happy in the bedroom". This, in turn, would lead to more harmonious marriages and societies, it says.
Bangladesh: Protect women against 'fatwa' violence
Despite court orders, government has failed to intervene.
(Dhaka) - The Bangladesh government should take urgent measures to make sure that religious fatwas and traditional dispute resolution methods do not result in extrajudicial punishments, Human Rights Watch said today. The government is yet to act on repeated orders of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court, beginning in July 2010, to stop illegal punishments such as whipping, lashing, or public humiliations, said the petitioners who challenged the practice.
India: How fruit trees in Indian village save girls' lives
In India, where traditionally boys have been preferred over girls, a village in backward Bihar state has been setting an example by planting trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child. In Dharhara village, Bhagalpur district, families plant a minimum of 10 trees whenever a girl child is born.
And this practice is paying off.
Nikah Kumari, 19, is all set to get married in early June. The would-be groom is a state school teacher chosen by her father, Subhas Singh.
India: Row after minister calls homosexuality a disease
India's health minister has sparked a furious row over comments in which he described homosexuality as a "disease". Ghulam Nabi Azad told a conference on HIV/Aids that gay sex was "unnatural". Later he said he had been misquoted. One leading Aids campaigner said the minister was "living on another planet".
Gay sex was decriminalised in the country in a landmark judgement in 2009 but anti-homosexual discrimination remains widespread.
Indonesia: Using religion to strengthen gender equality
DENPASAR, Indonesia, May 12, 2009 (IPS) - ‘My husband rapes me repeatedly. I asked the ulama (religious leader) for help, but he sided with him, saying that according to Islam, a woman has to obey her husband. I have nowhere else to go. I have no tears left to shed. I no longer scream.’
It was while recording stories like this that staff at Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), a branch of the country’s Human Rights Commission, decided in 2007 that they needed to focus on religious leaders if they wanted to protect women.
That insight led to intense brainstorming, studies and analysis, which with time has morphed into three books written by female scholars and religious leaders representing Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism.
Sri Lanka: Police investigate attack on teenage girls
Sri Lankan police are investigating an alleged assault on two girls accused of watching pornography in the east of the country last week. A group of men allegedly beat up the 17-year-olds after they came out of an internet cafe in the mostly Muslim town of Kattankudi, near Batticaloa.The father of one of the girls says they were accused of watching pornography - a charge the girls deny.
Afghanistan: Authorities must look to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Taliban attacks
The Afghan government must work with the International Criminal Court to investigate those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said today, after an attack on a Kabul hotel claimed by the Taleban left at least 10 people dead.
The attack is the latest in a series of serious attacks by insurgents deliberately targeting civilians, including a car bomb attack on a hospital in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province on 25 June, which killed at least 27 people, including many women and children.
India: Doctors turn baby girls into boys through genitoplasty
Girls are being 'converted' into boys in Indore - by the hundreds every year - at ages where they cannot give their consent for this life-changing operation.
This shocking, unprecedented trend, catering to the fetish for a son, is unfolding at conservative Indore's well-known clinics and hospitals on children who are 1-5 years old. The process being used to 'produce' a male child from a female is known as genitoplasty. Each surgery costs Rs 1.5 lakh.
Moreover, these children are pumped with hormonal treatment as part of the sex change procedure that may be irreversible.