November 6, 2001
Economic sanctions changes
marital plans in Iraq
A story released today by the BBC News reports that in Iraq, women have tended
to marry in their 20s but now, according to Iraqi officials, difficult economic conditions
as a result of a decade of international sanctions have forced a change in marriage
In Iraq, there are now said to be one million women over the age of 35 who are not
For the women waiting for marriage proposals and for the men who are expected to pay
for the dowry, the marital home and the costs of bringing up a family, economic conditions
have forced them to rethink their marital plans.
The problem is that after eleven years of sanctions most Iraqis are now desperately
poor, relying on government food rations to survive.
Many men feel they have little to offer a potential bride.
However it is not just the embargo that is to blame for the large number of single
Iraqi women over 35. In the corridors of a Baghdad University, many women students say
they now want a decent career before they will consider marriage.
Doctor Bathenal Hilu, head of the psychology department, believes the high rate of
unmarried women is, in fact, a positive phenomenon.
"I see this as part of development, women now want to prove themselves and anxiety
about success is diminishing," he said.
"The embargo is part of the reason for the low number of marriages, but I don't
think it's the main reason. Now it's not a problem if you're 40 and you want to get
married, and this is not just in Iraq."
"In all societies there are lots of single people."
Friday, November 2, 2001
Irelands tax laws on
pension benefits discriminates against unmarried couples
A story published today by the Irish Times reports that according to the Irish
Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), the current tax treatment of pensions blatantly
discriminates against unmarried couples.
In a pre-budget submission, the IAPF has called upon the Minister of Finance to remove
"an anomaly" whereby partners in non-married relationships are liable to 20
percent capital acquisitions tax (CAT) on pension benefits gained when one partner dies.
This position is directly opposed to that of married couples in the same circumstances -
under existing provisions, a husband or wife who receives a pension when the other spouse
dies is not liable to CAT liability.
"It clearly is an anomaly," says IAPF chairman Mr. John Feely. "And
anomaly is the nicest way you can say it."
"This is a clear case of double taxation," he says. "Indeed, at the
current levels of CAT and income tax, a pension paid in these circumstances could end up
being taxed at a combined rate of 62 percent."
The position becomes all the worse when the timing of CAT liability is taken into
account, according to Mr. Feely. Although the CAT falling due relates to anticipated
future pension payments, it must be funded as a one-off lump sum.
Conceivably, says Mr. Feely, this lump-sum payment could be so onerous as to persuade
the surviving partner to refuse the pension benefit.
The argument for streamlining the position between married and unmarried couples
becomes stronger, says Mr. Feely, when it is placed in the context of other familial
assets, particularly the family home.
As the law currently stands, an unmarried person who inherits a shared residence upon
the death of his or her partner is not liable to CAT, as long as he or she can prove
occupation of the premises for three years prior to the death.
Thursday, November 1, 2001
Nigerian woman condemned to
death by stoning in hiding
A story released today by the Weekly Trust reports that a convicted adulteress
in Sokoto State of Nigeria might have fled her village for good to avoid a verdict that
has condemned her to death by stoning.
The registrar of the Upper Shariah Court at Gwadabawa, Alhaji Mohammed Umar, told
Weekly Trust that the police had earlier reported the case to the Lower Shariah Court at
Gwadabawa but that because the court has no jurisdictional competence to entertain
criminal matters, the case was transferred to the Upper Sharia Court on the 3rd of July
The case did not present any complexities for the judge since both adulterers, Malam
Yakubu Abubakar, a married man and Madam Safiya Husseini who became pregnant
out-of-wedlock, were summoned to appear before the court and defend themselves.
Safiya had no defense, said the judge. In the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence
which guides the adjudication of Sharia judges in Northern Nigeria, the manifestation of
pregnancy is sufficient proof of culpability of adultery for women. At the time of her
appearance at the court, Safiya had already delivered her seven-month-old baby of unknown
paternity. That was unimpeachable evidence that she was guilty. As for men, only two
conditions can make them liable to the punishment of adultery: confession or the testimony
of four trustworthy witnesses who must have witnessed the commission of the crime. Yakubu
denied responsibility for Safiya's pregnancy, and there were no witnesses to invalidate
his avowal of innocence. On the basis of this, the judge, Alhaji Mohammed Bello, sentenced
Safiya to death by stoning, and acquitted Yakubu.
The judge who sentenced the lady to death by stoning said if somebody convicted of
adultery runs away, the law does not coerce them to face the punishment.
"If she runs away that is all. Because even the woman that was said to have been
stoned during the time of the Prophet (SAW) was the one that told the prophet that she was
pregnant, then the prophet asked her to go until she gave birth. She returned to the
prophet and the prophet told her to go back and wean the child. It was after she returned
to the prophet without the child that the prophet ordered that the woman be stoned to
death. Had it been that she did not return, she wouldn't have been stoned to death.
Therefore, if Safiya runs away, fine," he said.
Commission proposes moderate
changes to Jordans civil status law
A story published today by the Jordan Times reports that Jordans Royal
Commission on Human Rights recently introduced what it calls "moderate and
important" amendments to the Civil Status Law and the Code of Sharia Procedures,
which would lift many injustices women face in court.
"We have made several positive amendments to many of the clauses in these laws
that would benefit women, and referred them to the Cabinet for discussion," said
Senator Ahmad Obdeiat, head of the commission
One of the most important amendments to the Civil Status Law grants women the right to
divorce their husbands in return for monetary compensation to be paid by the wife to the
husband, according to Issam Zawawi, the commission's rapporteur.
Another major amendment raises the legal marriage age from 15 for women and 16 for men
to 18 for both, Zawawi said.
" Jordanian law considers any individual under the age of 18 to be a child. How
can children raise children?" he asked.
But he added that the new amendments grant the administrative ruler the authority to
allow the marriage of minors in "exceptional cases such as when a woman is raped and
decides to marry her rapist."
If a husband wishes to take a second, third or fourth wife, Zawawi added, the amended
law would require that he inform his first wife that he is planning to marry another
woman, and at the same time inform his next bride-to-be that he is already married. If the
husband is married to more than one and decides to take another wife, he must tell all his
wives about his nuptial intentions.
"He should also provide proof to the judge that he can support all the women he is
married to," he explained.
If a woman is arbitrarily divorced, her husband will, under the new amendments, be
obliged to pay her alimony for up to three years.
According to Zawawi, all the amendments were made in accordance with Islamic Sharia,
and were drafted by four Sharia judges.
"We have made our suggestions, and it is up to the Legislation Bureau at the Prime
Ministry to examine our suggestions, approve or amend any clause then issue them in the
form of a temporary law," he said.