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International News Archive
January 21 -  January 27, 2001


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This page contains news for the period January 21, 2001 through January 27, 2001.



<<   January 2001  >>

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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 travel alone.

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 Nigerian government.

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 England

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.


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