Wednesday, January 24, 2001
Iranian council vetoes international travel
rights for unmarried women
A story published today in the International Herald Tribune
reports that hopes among Iranian women wishing to attend universities abroad have been
dashed, after a body of conservative clerics and jurists vetoed legislation passed by the
Parliament that would have lifted a 20-year-old ban.
The Guardian Council, which is charged with deciding whether legislation conforms with
Islamic law, vetoed the bill last week. The reversal was the latest in a series of failed
attempts by the Parliament to give more rights to women.
Currently, the law requires women to obtain permission from their husbands or brothers
before studying abroad - and that is often denied because of reluctance to allow women to
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, more women attend universities in Iran than ever before
and more women have joined the work force. There are 11 female deputies in the 290-seat
Parliament. And unlike some women in some Muslim countries, Iranian women have the right
to vote and drive cars.
But Iranian women still face significant forms of discrimination in nearly all aspects of
life. Female doctors often receive inferior medical education. Women still face enormous
obstacles in initiating divorce proceedings against their husbands and winning custody of
their children. To initiate a divorce, a woman must prove her husband is insane, poses her
physical harm, or refuses her sex.
Husbands and fathers are legally the keepers of women's passports. And at home, women are
still forced into traditional roles, whether they have careers or not.
Fatimeh Haqiqatjoo, 32, a newly elected deputy who proposed the legislation, also
introduced a bill to raise the official age before a girl can be married off by her
family. The minimum age now is 9, but she believes it should be 15. The Guardian Council
also vetoed that bill, saying it was un-Islamic.
"The Guardian Council can't continue acting like this," said the deputy, sitting
in the Iranian Parliament recently. "It will eventually face public pressure."
She said she would not give up the fight to protect adolescent girls from being married at
an early age.
Traditionalist clerics cite religious edicts to support their stance against allowing
women to study abroad or raising the legal age for marriage. But moderate clerics are
joining in the struggle for women's liberation.
A senior theologian, Ayatollah Josef Sanei, issued a fatwa last year saying that a woman
should be allowed to run for president. It called for giving women the right to initiate
divorce and granting her custody for her children more easily.
Monday, January 22, 2001
Nigerians carry out flogging sentence of Muslim girl
A story published today by the Associated Press reports that, despite international
condemnation, Nigerian authorities lashed a 17-year-old Muslim girl 100 times with a cane
after convicting her of having premarital sex.
The flogging of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu -- who said she was pressured by her father to have
sex with three men -- was carried out on Friday in the northern state of Zamfara,
according to a brief statement of the government. Local reporters said that she was
in pain afterward but appeared to suffer no major injuries.
The flogging had been scheduled for Jan. 27, the first
anniversary of the imposition of Islamic law, or sharia, in Zamfara, but it was
indefinitely postponed last week.
Explaining why they went ahead with the flogging, government spokesman Bashir Sanda said
local authorities wanted to bring an early end to a storm of international controversy
created by an Islamic court's guilty verdict and sentence in September.
``The governor felt he ought to act immediately to put the matter to rest,'' Bashir said.
The girl was charged after it was discovered she was pregnant. According to the
London-based rights group Amnesty International, she had no representation at her trial.
A sentence of 180 lashes was initially delayed until she delivered a baby boy on Dec. 4.
The sentence was reduced to 100 lashes earlier this month amid outcries from human rights
groups and the Canadian High Commission, which delivered a diplomatic rebuke to the
The story said that Sharia's introduction in several northern states last year sparked
bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims. Hundreds were killed.
Sunday, January 21, 2001
Church divorce bar to be lifted in
A story published today in the Sunday Times of London reports that the Church of England
could permit divorcees to remarry in church as early as next year following a consultation
with its members that has so far shown a large majority in favor of change.
The results have shocked traditionalists, who are afraid the move could damage the moral
standing of the church by ending the centuries-old prohibition.
In seven of the eight dioceses that have taken a vote on the issue, including Durham and
Norwich, church representatives have expressed their support by a wide margin. In one, it
was 100% in favor.
In the eighth, Chichester, probably the most conservative of the 44 Anglican dioceses, it
was still voted through. The clergy voted narrowly in favor, with the laity voting for the
change by a bigger majority.
The diocese did, however, register its opposition to some procedures involved. Brian
Hanson, legal adviser to the General Synod, said: "It is possible a two-stage process
could begin in November and be finalized in the summer of 2002."
Opponents may, however, attempt to delay it by requiring a change in canon law, which
would mean a further consultation with the dioceses.
Traditionalists were surprised to discover so many churchgoers prepared to ditch centuries
of practice. Edwin Barnes, the Bishop of Richborough, said: "The church should be
making it quite clear that marriage is a lifelong commitment and anything that undermines
that understanding weakens both church and nation."
The dioceses have been asked to vote on proposals to revoke the 1957 Act of Convocation
that bars the use of the marriage service for divorced people with spouses still living.
With more than 40 percent of marriages now ending in divorce, many clergy members believe
the church's policy against second marriages prevents it from serving large numbers of its
own followers. The consultation is expected to end in March, when the bishops will decide
how to proceed.
It is possible the synod will consider the change later this year and, if it approves,
divorcees could marry in church sometime in 2002. It is believed the majority
of synod members, including most bishops, support a change. George Carey, the Archbishop
of Canterbury, is believed to be sympathetic.
The strong reaction at parish level could also result in an increase in the number of
clergy defying the restrictions. Already 10% of them marry divorcees in their churches.