The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women!
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is launching the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! to end the relentless misuse of religion and culture to justify killing women as punishment for violating the imposed ‘norms’ of sexual behaviour. The killing of women – under any pretext – is unacceptable. It is also a grave and serious violation of International Human Rights Law.
Inspired by and growing out of women’s struggles in their own locations to combat various manifestations of this phenomenon, (e.g. Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria), the Campaign will support and enable women’s human rights advocates, national and transnational women’s movements to resist those forces which politicize and mis-use culture and religion to subjugate women and the abuse of their human rights.
Stoning to death is a particular, but not exclusive focus of the campaign. Stoning is a legal punishment for zina (sexual intercourse outside of heterosexual marriage), usually for married persons in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates and in about one-third of the states in Nigeria. While the Pakistani and Iraqi states have never executed the penalty, incidences of stoning have been carried out by communities, seemingly encouraged by the existence of the punishment in law. 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. Most recently, on July 5, 2007, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Aghche-kand village near Takistan, Ghazvin. Currently, nine others 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. Yet in May 2007, the disturbing video footage of a girl being stoned to death in a non-Muslim community of Iraq began to circulate via the Internet. This video demonstrates all too clearly that stoning is a particularly cruel and dehumanising punishment involving a slow and painful process until death taking place in public. 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. Other theologians in several countries also maintain 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 stoning has occurred 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, 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.
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 societies, 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.
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 Campaign reaffirms the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dr. Yakin Ertürk, in her January 2007 Report: ‘Intersections between Culture and Violence against Women’ of (a) engaging in "cultural negotiation" in ways that validate and emphasize the positive cultural elements, while de-mystifying the oppressive elements in culture-based discourses of the same society, and (b) addressing violence against women in all its intersections with other forms of inequality and issues of basic human rights.
Initiated to address the intensifying trend of cultural and religious legitimisation of lethal violence against women, the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women!, will:
- Help render unacceptable the use of religion, culture and tradition to excuse or justify violence against women.
To this end, the Campaign will:
- Focus global attention and raise public awareness about the politicisation of culture and religion and its instrumental abuse of women’s human rights;
- Strengthen the resistance by women’s human rights advocates and women’s movements by building their capacity to document and publicise cases of abuse; to make more effective use of relevant regional and international instruments/institutions; and by mobilising international support from within the legal, religious and human rights arenas.
Together with the international community, we can put an end to the killing of women and all other practices that prevent women from maintaining their bodily integrity, human rights, and human dignity.