Violence Against Women in Muslim Families: an Agenda for Muslim Women’s Empowerment
Nasim Basiri Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared in a 2006 report posted on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) website that: Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her, (Kofi Annan 2006) One of the key issues addressed at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was the elimination of violence against women.' Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, irrespective of their socio-economic status. It cuts across ethnic, cultural and religious barriers, impeding the rights of women to participate fully in the society. The urgency of addressing this global problem is tragically illustrated by the treatment of women in conflict or crisis situations, where various forms of harassment, intimidation, rape and forced pregnancies are being used as instruments of war, especially by the opposing forces or the supposed peacekeepers. The recent incident in the Darfur region of Sudan, where women were violently abused both physically and sexually and some killed, is typical. However, it is not only in times of war that women are vulnerable to abuse. Throughout the world, women suffer untold violence in the family, at work and in the wider community, while the perpetrators include individuals and the state apparatus. Women worldwide remain vulnerable to life-threatening conditions and abuse of physical and psychological integrity. Although violence against women is highly under-reported, its prevalence is high in many cultural settings both in the developed and developing countries. For instance, studies indicate that 10-58% of women have experienced physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Furthermore, cross- sectional studies show that 40% of women inSouth Africa, 28% in Tanzania and 7% in New Zealand reported their first sexual intercourse was forced. More than half a billion of the women in the world are Muslim. They are concentrated in approximately 45 Muslim-majority countries in a broad belt from Senegal to the Philippines, with the largest number on the South Asian subcontinent. The most populous single Muslim-majority nation is Indonesia.The policing of Muslim communities in the name of gender equality is now a globally organized phenomenon and one that has become even more pronounced after the events of September 11, 2001 when the United States began its ‘War on Terror’ in response to the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. The policing is organized under the logic that there is an irreconcilable culture clash between the West and Islam with the latter bent on the West’s destruction. (Huntington 1997) They are tribal and stuck in pre-modernity, the argument goes, possessing neither a commitment to human rights, women’s rights nor to democracy. It is the West’s obligation to defend itself from these values and to assist Muslims into modernity, by force if necessary, as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq both underline. The body of the Muslim woman, a body ﬁxed in the Western imaginary as conﬁned, mutilated, and sometimes murdered in the name of culture, serves to reinforce the threat that the Muslim man is said to pose to the West and is used to justify the extraordinary measures of violence and surveillance required to discipline him and Muslim communities.( Jiwani) THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM
Some scholars have argued that MPL cannot be effectively recognised and implemented by the South African government because Islamic law conflicts with gender equality.' Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 70s, a...
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