Stop safeguarding traditional values over women’s rights

For the first time in its history, the 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)–a global policy-making body meant to promote women’s rights–ended with no agreed conclusions. Not since Beijing (4th World Conference on Women in 1995) has there been such a stalemate between women’s rights advocates and religious/conservative forces. Once more, culture and tradition were invoked to stall progress on critical women’s rights issues and provoke a political deadlock.

The African Group, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Holy See, Caribbean Community and Common Market and several states worked to block progress on several key issues, including opposition to already agreed upon language in international texts, such as removing the term traditional from “harmful traditional practices”, lobbying to change “early and forced marriages” to the more ambiguous “child marriage”, and replacing “gender equality” with “equality between men and women” to refute the existence of any other genders. They also sought to advance “parental rights” and deny the right to comprehensive sexuality education and “reproductive rights and sexual health” as human rights.

In a joint statement, Say NO to safeguarding “traditional values” over women’s human rights!, women’s rights groups have expressed their outrage with the end result of the 56th CSW. The statement calls on governments not to put on hold the advancements of women’s rights because of political battles between states; says no to re-opening negotiations on already established international agreements on women’s human rights; and calls on governments to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and reject attempts to invoke traditional values or morals which infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law.

To see the full statement, click here.

To add your and or your organisation’s name to the list of signatories to the statement, click here.

Baring one’s body can be a legitimate form of resistance

Here is a piece in the Paris Herald on ‘Boobquake’ versus ‘Brainquake.’ Since I only found out about Brainquake when the journalist in question contacted me for a comment (which she didn’t use), let me briefly say the following:

Of course women are wrongly sexualized everywhere including with the veil and sexual apartheid. But for Brainquake to reduce Boobquake to the sexualisation of women misses the point. Ridicule is a wonderful way of criticizing religion and religious rules, particularly given that it is becoming more and more taboo. Also intent is important. Jennifer’s intent was a defence of women’s rights and status and cannot be compared with pornography.

More importantly, though, when you are confronted with an Islamic movement that deems women’s bodies as sources of corruption and chaos, and actually criminalises everything from a woman’s hair, her bare arms or legs, let alone breasts, baring one’s body can become a legitimate form of resistance.

I don’t know Golbarg Bashi and cannot speak of her intent but I find her reasoning against Boobquake sounding very much like that of the Islamic regime of Iran’s and other Islamists, which say they promote women’s dignity and intellect whilst imposing medieval laws that veil, segregate and deem women as sub-human. I would think that if she was as concerned about women’s rights as she says, she would not be calling on campaigners to remain passive and merely donate to ‘Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.’ Her call is a disservice to the international solidarity that all progressive social movements demand and deserve and particularly the important women’s liberation movement in Iran.

‘Boobquake’ was an important act of human solidarity

A message to Jennifer McCreight, founder of ‘boobquake’

Dear Jennifer

We wanted to write and congratulate you on ‘boobquake.’ As signatories to the Manifesto of Liberation of Women in Iran and Iran Solidarity, we felt strongly that it was an important act in defence of women’s rights and human dignity. This is particularly so given the silence of so many feminists who seem to have succumbed to the racist concept of cultural relativism that implies that women choose to live the way they are forced to. Clearly though, women everywhere want to live lives worthy of the 21st century and not under medievalism and religious rules. That is why you have received so much support from people in Iran for this action. This support is a reflection of a strong women’s liberation movement, which is leading many of the ongoing protests there.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi’s views are not merely those of a madman but of the state, the judicial system and the educational system. Under Sharia law, for example, a women’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, women are still being stoned to death for sex outside of marriage (with the law even specifying the size of the stone to be used), women and girls are denied access to certain fields of study (they can’t be judges for example as they are deemed to be too ‘emotional’), and they have no right to travel or even work without the permission of their male guardians. Like racial apartheid in the former South Africa, sexual apartheid demands that women and girls be veiled, sit at the back of buses, and enter via separate government building entrances. Yet despite 31 years of this brutality, women continue to refuse and resist, including by unveiling or ‘improper’ veiling, even though they are arrested, fined and harassed daily. This resistance is why every now and then leading clerics like Sedighi feel the need to intervene and blame women for some calamity or another. Acts of real human solidarity like yours helps to mobilise opposition to this misogyny whilst strengthening and encouraging the women’s liberation movement in Iran.

We look forward to working closely with you from now on and know you will continue to support our efforts.

Please feel free to publicise and sign on to the Manifesto of Liberation of Women in Iran and Iran Solidarity.

Warmest regards
Mina Ahadi, International Committee Against Executions and Stoning
Mahin Alipour, Equal Rights Now – Organisation Against Women’s Discrimination in Iran
Shahla Daneshfar, Equal Rights Now – Organisation Against Women’s Discrimination in Iran
Maryam Namazie, Iran Solidarity