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International News Archive
November 01 - November 06, 2001


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This page contains news for the period November  01 through November 06, 2001.



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Tuesday, 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 patterns.

In Iraq, there are now said to be one million women over the age of 35 who are not married.

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

Ireland’s 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 2001.

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 Jordan’s civil status law

A story published today by the Jordan Times reports that Jordan’s 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.


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