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Malaysia begins caning women for adultery
Simon Montlake, Christian Science Monitor

Malaysia caned three Muslim women convicted of adultery by a court of Islamic law, the first time that women in the multi-faith country have been subject to the punishment.

Last August, a similar sentence against a Muslim woman caught drinking was deferred amid complaints that shariah courts had overstepped the mark. That punishment is still pending.

Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said he wanted to publicize the case of the three women, who also received short jail terms, because of “too much hype” over the earlier case.

“People are saying that no woman has been caned before… today I am announcing that we have already done it,” he told a press conference. He added that the women didn’t suffer any cuts or bruises from the caning and had “repented” for their offenses. Four men were also convicted of “illicit sex” and sentenced to whipping.

What role for Islamic law?

Last year the case of Kartika Shukarno sparked a legal debate over the powers of Islamic courts to issue such rulings, since federal law shields women from the punishment. Shariah courts operate in parallel in Malaysia but are accused of infringing on secular rights, particularly by non-Muslims…
(18 Feb 2010)

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Fred Pearce: overpopulation worries are a potentially racist distraction
Matilda Lee, The Ecologist

Environmental journalist Fred Pearce, author of the new book Peoplequake, on why overconsumption is the key issue, the need for relaxed immigration laws, and why men should look after children

Matilda Lee: What spurred you to write a book on population?

Fred Pearce: We had huge population concerns during the 1960s and into the 70s, then people rather lost interest in it. Just in the last two or three years, I’ve noticed that people have been talking about it again in the context of climate change and new concerns about food security. I wanted to look at what was actually happening to the world’s population and the relationship to resource use and environmental damage.

ML: Many respected environmentalists – from Lester Brown to Jonathon Porritt – believe we are headed for disaster by not supporting family planning in countries with high fertility rates and dire poverty. What do you make of this?

FP: Overpopulation is the wrong issue. Forty years ago, women were having 5 or 6 children each. There really was a population bomb going off. Actually, around the world today, women have diffused the population bomb. Women now have an average of 2.6 children globally and the replacement level [demographers’ figure for the amount of offspring women must have to maintain the population] is 2.3 – so we are really very close to replacement level fertility rate. There are exceptions, but those rates are still coming down very fast in most of the world. I’m not sure how much more we could actually do, short of really unpleasant Draconian policies, to make that happen any faster.

People like Jonathon Porritt and David Attenborough say it is the number one issue – Lester Brown often says it, but has a more nuanced stance. Every time people say that, they are not talking about the real elephant in the living room, which is over consumption.

If we’re talking about overconsumption, we’re talking about what we’re doing. If we’re talking about overpopulation, we’re somehow blaming the planetary predicament on poor families in India, or Africa, or parts of the Middle East. That really ain’t fair.

…ML: The first part of your book traces the history of the population control movement and makes some disturbing links between eugenics and the founders of the modern environmental movement. Do you believe that there is a racist element to population control measures?

FP: There has been. I suspect that in some places, there still is. I think it’s dying. But we have to be careful to look for it. You can see it as underpinning the notion that it’s people in countries far away, with dark skins, breeding, that are damaging planetary systems and are causing greenhouse gases emissions. How dare we! Is there racism in that? I suspect there is a bit…
(2 March 2010)
Find out more about Fred’s book on his website.

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1325 implementation – Where is Secretary-General’s leadership?
Anwarul K. Chowdhury, TerraViva

Exactly to the date, 10 years ago, on the International Women’s Day, on behalf of the UN Security Council as its President, I had the honor to issue a statement that brought to global attention the unrecognized, under-utilized and under-valued contribution women can make to preventing war, to building peace and to engaging individuals and societies live in harmony. The members of the Security Council recognized that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men and affirmed the equal access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all efforts for peace and security.

It is unfortunate that the intrinsic role of women in global peace and security had remained unrecognized since the creation of the United Nations. For a long time, there has been an impression of women as helpless victims of wars and conflicts. The role of women in fostering peace in their communities and beyond has often been overlooked. The inexplicable silence of 55 long years was broken, for the first time, on the 8th of March 2000. Thereby, the seed for the Security Council resolution 1325 was sown.

If one looks into the relevance of contents, potential for change and expected impact of any global declaration for women, two stand out head and shoulder above all others. The Beijing Platform for Action and 1325 are unparalleled in terms of what they can do to empower women, not only to give 50% of world’s population their due but also to make the world a better place to live. But where do we stand in terms of there implementation?

Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. One shining example of this has been the Mano River Women’s Peace Network that brings together women from the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

What then can we do in the coming months and years to move forward an effective implementation of 1325 in letter and spirit? The main question is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making and in the peace-keeping teams, particularly as civilians to ensure real and faithful implementation of 1325.

The time has come to prepare an exhaustive and comprehensive list of indicators to monitor and measure progress in the implementation of 1325 in its letter and spirit. Included in that should be the statement by the Security Council on 8 March 2000 as that laid the foundation of the resolution.

The Security Council resolution 1889 adopted on 5 October 2009 asked the Secretary-General to submit to the Council within 6 months a set of indicators for use at the global level to track implementation of 1325, which could serve as a common basis for reporting by relevant United Nations entities, other international and regional organizations, and Member States in 2010 and beyond.

What is the Secretary-General’s role in all these? Not to speak of the need for his genuinely active, dedicated engagement in using the moral authority of the United Nations and the high office he occupies for the effective implementation of 1325, even his pronouncements have referred to this landmark resolution in a cursory and non-substantive manner.

On this year’s International Women’s Day, which his office curiously pushed on the CSW 54 to be observed on 3 March, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon devoted one lonely sentence to 1325 in his rather long oration claiming that he has “made women’s empowerment a priority”.

On the 2008 and 2009 International Women’s Day, he used his good judgment not to say anything at all on 1325. 2007 was different that being his first year and policy direction was not in place early in March…
(8 March 2010)
The text of the resolution can be accessed here.