Discrimination in law

Rwanda: Ensure Access to Safe Legal Abortions

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2012 May 30
Update Date: 
2012 Jul 11
Update: 

UPDATE 11 July 2012: Equality Now welcomes the new Rwandan Penal Code legalizing abortion under certain circumstances, mentioned below in our Urgent Alert, which was signed by the President and came into effect on 14 June 2012. Unfortunately, none of the pre-conditions to obtaining an abortion were removed. The Penal Code was also not amended to allow trained mid-level healthcare providers to conduct safe abortions, so denying women greater access to reproductive health and rights.

view as pdf

What You Can Do: 

Call on President Kagame to uphold Rwanda’s international legal obligations by:

  • Removing the pre-conditions requiring women to obtain a court order and approval by two doctors in order to access a safe abortion.
  • Amending the bill to allow for trained mid-level health care providers to conduct abortions before the safe abortion bill is signed into law.
  • Ensuring women are able to access safe abortions.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to President Paul Kagame:

c/o Ines Mpambara
Director of Cabinet Office of the President
Email: inesmp@presidenccy.gov.rw

or via the contact form on the President's web page

Letters: 

Dear President Kagame,

I welcome the passage of legislation allowing a woman to obtain an abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of incest, rape, forced marriage, or if the pregnancy threatens her health. I am writing to express my support for the men and women in Rwanda who are advocating for women to be able to access safe abortions.

However, burdensome pre-conditions – in particular requiring a woman to obtain a court order and approval by two doctors before she can procure an abortion and only allowing doctors to perform abortions – threaten to make safe abortions almost impossible for many women to access. I understand that most women do not have access to courts or doctors and consequently would not be able to benefit from this law. I therefore respectfully request that you do all you can to ensure the removal of these pre-conditions before signing the bill into law. In addition, please ensure that mid-level trained health care providers are allowed to perform safe abortions.

These changes would help women access safe abortions and so reduce the danger of maternity mortality and health complications. They would also be consistent with Rwanda’s obligations under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well other instruments. Please do all that you can to ensure that women are able to access safe abortions.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Egypt: Stop the lowering of the minimum age of marriage for girls in Egypt

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 May 8
Update Date: 
2012 Oct 10
Update: 

UPDATE: Due to the political situation in Egypt, the Egyptian Parliament is currently dissolved. Equality Now and our partners on the ground are monitoring the situation.


view as pdf

What You Can Do: 

Please urge the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Speaker of the People’s Assembly Council, and the President of the Shura Council to stop the proposed changes to the age of marriage law and the custody on divorce law. Remind the authorities that they have legal obligations both under the Egyptian Constitution to uphold gender equality and under human rights instruments, including the CRC and CEDAW, to reject any amendments that would undermine the rights of girls and women. >> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

  • Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, 11 Al’ourubah Street, Cairo, Egypt / Fax: +202-241-83761, E-mail: amd@mmc.gov.eg (note: some emails have not been going through to this address; online signatures will be collected and faxed.)
  • Dr. Mohamed Said El Katatni, Speaker of the People’s Assembly Council, Majles El Shab St.1, Cairo, Egypt / Fax 002-227921040
  • Mr. Ahmad Fahmy, President of the Shura Council, Kasr Al Aini Street- Cairo, Egypt / Fax: 002-227941980
Letters: 

Dear Field Marshal/Speaker/President:

I am writing to express my support for the men and women in Egypt who are advocating for the maintenance of gender equality in Egypt as guaranteed under the Constitution. I therefore respectfully request that you do all you can to stop the proposed changes to the age of marriage law and the custody on divorce law.

I understand that Egypt’s People’s Assembly Council is currently discussing legislation that would reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as 9 years old and could vote on the final draft bill at any moment. If adopted, girls could be married off by their families without their consent putting them at risk of physical and psychological harm, as well as cutting short other life opportunities, such as pursuing their education. I also understand that draft legislation has also been introduced limiting a mother’s custody of her children upon divorce. I support the women and men in Egypt who recently sent a statement to the Parliament highlighting the inconsistency of these proposed legislative changes with the principles of the revolution, which include dignity, justice and freedom.

The guarantee of gender equality under Egypt’s Constitution is also consistent with the government of Egypt’s legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as other instruments. Please do not make any amendment to the minimum age of marriage law or the custody on divorce law which would breach the equality provisions in the Egyptian Constitution and under international law.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,
 

Morocco: End the legal exemption for rapists who marry their victims

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Mar 28
Update Date: 
2012 Dec 4
Update: 

UPDATE 20 MARCH 2013: In February 2013, the Moroccan Ministry of Justice and Liberties approved amendments to the Penal Code, which are said to strengthen punishments for sexual violence. Such changes include revisions to Article 475, which had the effect of exempting from punishment a rapist who subsequently married his minor victim. Deletions have also been proposed to the Personal Status Law to remove articles which allowed a judge to endorse early marriage under the legal age. Full discussion of these revisions in parliament has been postponed until the Spring. Although women’s groups in Morocco have welcomed these proposed amendments, they are calling for a full review of the Penal Code to revoke provisions which discriminate against women and to provide full protection for women against violence and discrimination. We will be issuing a full update, including further action you can take to support their work, as the process progresses.


UPDATE 4 DECEMBER 2012: In solidarity with female victims of violence and discrimination, the Spring of Dignity coalition is organizing a human chain that will start at the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice in Rabat and end at the seat of the House of Representatives on 8 December 2012. Moroccan women and men are calling on the government to amend the Penal Code, including article 475 that still sanctions the exoneration of a rapist if he marries his victim. The coalition, which includes more than 40 associations, networks and organizations, is also demanding the criminalization of marital rape, sexual harassment and psychological abuse, the legalization of safe abortion and the revision of discriminatory articles related to prostitution and trafficking under the Penal Code among other measures.

Equality Now joins the coalition and our partners in calling the Government of Morocco to amend the Penal Code to safeguard women’s rights. Please take Action and keep up the pressure on the Government of Morocco to end the legal exemption for rapists who marry their victims and to ensure that the prohibition on child marriage is enforced.


UPDATE 17 MAY 2012: 15-year-old Safae from Tangiers was raped and impregnated in January 2011 when she was 14. Though she and her mother filed a complaint, according to recent reports they were pressured to drop the charges by the prosecutor and the judge. Instead, without her parents being present, the judge allegedly made Safae marry her rapist in order to save her “honor.” By doing so, the law also removed the threat of criminal penalty on Safae’s rapist.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Safae gave birth to a girl in September 2011, but her rapist has disappeared and she and her daughter are not supported by him. Additionally, since the father is not named on the birth certificate, Safae’s rapist remains anonymous with his “honor” intact, while Safae is reported to be in a state of extreme depression, having twice attempted suicide.

As with the previous case of 16-year-old Amina Filali, who committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist, this highlights the difficulties faced by Moroccan girls in achieving justice in sexual violence cases. Union de L'Action Feminine, a Moroccan women’s rights group, and other civil society organizations continue to call for the repeal of Article 475, described in detail below, as well as for the repeal of laws permitting judges at their discretion to authorize marriage of minors who are younger than the minimum age of marriage of 18 including in cases of sexual violence. La Marche Des Femmes Libres is organizing demonstrations throughout the country to ensure that rapists are not absolved of their crimes. Action is urgently needed to develop child protection mechanisms, including judicial training, so that judges cannot and do not push girls into marrying their rapists.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Continue to call on the Moroccan government officials below to:

  • Repeal Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code and ensure that girls and women are protected from violence and have access to justice.
  • Ensure that the prohibition on child marriage is enforced and stop judges from coercing girls to marry their abusers particularly in cases of sexual violence.
  • Institute child protection measures and judicial training as matters of urgency. 
  • Comply with Morocco’s international legal obligations under the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as its own Constitution.

Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Action with your friends.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!


On 11 March 2012, 16-year-old Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison after being forced to marry her rapist. Neither Amina nor the rapist wanted to marry but court officials, including the prosecutor, suggested the marriage when the victim and her family reported the rape. Article 475 of the Penal Code of Morocco specifically exempts a minor’s “kidnapper” from punishment if she marries him. Culturally, the stigma of being raped is often too much for both rape victims and their parents, and many reluctantly agree to the marriage.

What You Can Do: 

Please call on the Moroccan government officials below to repeal Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code as a matter of urgency. Express the critical need, following the death of Amina Filali, to prevent future deaths and violations of girls’ and women’s rights and to ensure that girls and women are protected and have access to justice. Encourage them to comply with Morocco’s international legal obligations under the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as its own Constitution. >> TAKE ACTION NOW!

 
Letters should go to:

Ministry of Justice and Liberties
Mr. Mustafa Ramid
Minister of Justice and Liberties
Fax: +212 5-37-26-31-03
Email: krtmed@gmail.com

Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development
Ms. Bassima Hakkaoui
Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development
Fax: +212 5-37-67-19-17
Email: a.elouadi@social.gov.ma

House of Representatives
Mr. Karim Ghelleb
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Fax: + 212 5-37-67-77-26
Email: kghelleb@parlement.ma , parlement@parlement.ma
 

Letters: 

Dear Minister/Speaker of the House,

Following recent reports about 14-year-old Safae from Tangiers, who was allegedly forced by a judge to marry her rapist in order to save her “honor,” I urge you to work for the repeal of Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code, which specifically exempts a rapist from punishment if a girl marries him. In addition, I urge you to ensure that the prohibition on child marriage is enforced and to take measures to stop judges from coercing girls into marriage in cases such as this. I would respectfully encourage your government to do everything it can to ensure that girls and women are protected from violence and discrimination and have access to justice when they face abuse.

Countries with sex discriminatory laws like Article 475, such as Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay, have been amending them over the last several years. A very similar law in Argentina, Article 132 of the Penal Code, was just amended by the Argentine National Congress. If Morocco would do the same, this would also set an example for other countries in the region.

The repeal of Article 475 and ensuring that the prohibition on child marriage is enforced would be in line with the Moroccan Constitution and consistent with Morocco’s international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Please also institute child protection measures and judicial training as matters of urgency to stop judges from marrying young girls to their rapists.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Azza Suleiman

Advocating for Equal Rights for Egypt’s Women
Azza Suleiman

1. How did you start working in women’s rights in Egypt; what motivated you to start your organization?

Lebanon: Give women equal citizenship rights to men under the nationality law

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2011 Nov 29
Update Date: 
2013 Feb 11
Update: 

UPDATE 27 FEBRUARY 2015: To renew pressure on Lebanon to grant women the equal right to pass on their nationality, on 16 January 2015, Equality Now and the Lebanese Committee for the Follow-up on Women’s Issues raised the issue with the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.

In our joint submission, we noted that though some rights for children and spouses of Lebanese women married to non-nationals had been granted, except for a provision allowing for three year residency permits, these civil rights still wait to be implemented. Moreover, this is not enough. All discrimination that treats Lebanese women and men differently under the nationality law must be eliminated. Therefore, we asked the Committee to push Lebanon to supply concrete plans and timeline to end this ongoing human rights violation. The Committee will be holding a pre-review of Lebanon in March in advance of a country visit scheduled for the Fall.


UPDATE 11 FEBRUARY 2013: The Ministerial Committee established to study Lebanon’s nationality law has failed to meet the aspirations of Lebanese women married to non-nationals. In a disappointing decision, the Ministerial Committee concluded on 14 December 2012 that Lebanese women should not be granted the right to pass their nationality to their children and spouses, a decision made public on 16 January 2013. Instead, it recommended to the Prime Minister that restrictions on children of Lebanese women married to non-nationals relating to resident permits, education, work in the private sector and access to state medical care should be eased. If implemented, these recommendations are welcome in that they should alleviate the hardships experienced by the children of Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men. However, campaigners still want removed, once and for all, the discrimination that treats Lebanese women and men differently under the nationality law.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW! Please continue, in support of Lebanese women campaigning for their rights, to urge the President and the Prime Minister to revise the nationality law urgently and comprehensively to ensure that all Lebanese citizens, male and female, have the equal right to confer their Lebanese nationality on their spouses and children.


 

Hiam Abd El Samad
 Hiam Abd El Samad

In July 2010, Equality Now issued Women’s Action 36.1 calling on the government of Lebanon to recognize the adverse effects that the discriminatory

What You Can Do: 

Please continue to write to the Lebanese authorities listed below welcoming these new labor regulations but asking them to revise the nationality law urgently and comprehensively to ensure that all Lebanese citizens, male or female, have the equal right to confer their Lebanese nationality on their spouses and children.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

Mr. Tammam Salam
Prime Minister
Grand Serail
Riad Solh Street
Beirut, Lebanon
Fax: +961 1 865630
Tel: +961 1 746 800
Email: conseilm@pcm.gov.lb

With copies to:

Mrs. Wafa Suleiman
President - National Commission of Lebanese Women
Hazmieh - Main Road - Chahine Commercial Center - 2nd Floor
Beirut, Lebanon
Fax: +961 5 955 103
Tel: +961 5 955 101/2
Email: info@nclw.org.lb

Letters: 

Dear President/ Prime Minister:

I am writing to express my support of Lebanese women campaigning for their rights to pass their nationality on to their children and non-national spouses. I am concerned that the Ministerial Committee established to study Lebanon’s nationality law did not meet the aspirations of Lebanese women married to non-nationals by failing to recommend ways to revise the nationality law in order to guarantee full equality between women and men in this regard.

I understand that the Ministerial Committee concluded on 18 December 2012 that Lebanese women should not be granted the right to pass their nationality to their children and spouses, and instead recommended only that restrictions on children of Lebanese women married to non-nationals should be eased in relation to resident permits, education, work in the private sector and access to state-medical care.

While I welcome these recommendations to alleviate the hardships experienced by children of Lebanese women married to non-nationals, they do not treat Lebanese women as equal citizens under the nationality law as required by the Constitution and Lebanon’s international legal obligations. These women and their families will continue to face difficulties in their daily lives. I therefore urge you to revise the nationality law without delay to ensure that all Lebanese citizens, male and female, have the equal right to confer their nationality on their children and spouses.

Thank you for your attention.

Women's Rights Slipping Away in the Aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
23 July 2011
Contact: NAIROBI: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913, equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, (01) 212-586-0906
LONDON: Jacqui Hunt, (44) (0) 20-7839-5456

Equality Now & SOAWR Release Guide on Groundbreaking Protocol on Rights of Women in Africa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
14 July 2011
Contact: NAIROBI: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913, equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org

Equality Now and Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) Release New Practical Guide on Using the Groundbreaking Protocol on Rights of Women in Africa

How-to-Guide will Equip Activists with Strong Tools to Protect and Advance African Women's Rights

Egypt: Ensure women’s rights are integrated in post-revolution Egypt

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2011 Jul 10
Update Date: 
2013 Mar 14
Update: 

UPDATE 14 MARCH 2013: The Egyptian Constitution was approved by referendum in December 2012 despite a turnout of less than 33%, a yes vote of less than 64% of the turnout, and continuing concerns at the lack of transparency and inclusivity in the drafting process. Parliament is still dissolved and proposed elections were recently suspended by the court.

Equality Now is strategizing with its Egyptian partners on the best way to push for women’s rights, including with regard to the repeal or amendment of laws that discriminate against women and ensuring the meaningful integration of women in all political processes. Of immediate serious concern are the recent attacks on women in Tahrir Square including their subjection to sexual harassment and gang rape. We will have further information shortly on how you can support the work on the ground to address this.


UPDATE 7 March 2012: Despite the promise of the early political changes in Egypt, which inspired the belief that a newly democratic country would include women as full social and political partners, Egyptian women rather fear further deterioration of their rights. Marching in Cairo on International Women’s Day, 8 March, they are calling again for implementation of the Egyptian Women’s Charter, drawn up last year by more than 3,000 women and endorsed by half a million Egyptian citizens, both men and women. Equality Now supports the continuing efforts of Egypt’s women to hold Egyptian authorities accountable for the promotion and protection of their human rights. Since June 2011, women have lost seats in Parliament and presently there are only three women in the Cabinet. TAKE ACTION NOW! Please join us in urging the Egyptian authorities to realize the following demands being made by Egyptian women at the march:

  1. Achieve equality among all citizens, women and men, in the provisions of the constitution and all laws, and create mechanisms that will ensure their proper implementation and recourse for any violations.
  2. Ensure gender equality and fair representation of qualified and experienced women in the committee that will write the new constitution. 
  3. Take appropriate measures to ensure fair political participation of women at all levels of decision-making: in political parties, trade unions and state institutions.
  4. Preserve the social and economic rights achieved by women in their previous struggles and ensure their ability to attain them.
  5. Comply with all international treaties that protect the rights of women, children and human beings in general, and work on lifting reservations to the CEDAW convention.
  6. Establish full citizenship rights and the rule of law that will lead to the revocation of all forms of discrimination based on sex, age, marital status, class, ideological affiliation, etc.

Partners in the revolution and democratic Egypt ©UN Women

Partners in the revolution and democratic Egypt ©UN Women

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Egyptian authorities urging them to take steps to meet the demands laid out in the Women’s Charter.  Call upon them to ensure that 30% of electoral lists are comprised of women so that women have the opportunity to participate in the political life of the country.  The new government should, among other things, ensure that women are represented on the constitutional committee; that at least 40% of ministerial posts go to women; that discriminatory legislation is reviewed and revised; that women have equal access to the same employment and business opportunities as men; and that a strong women’s machinery is established.  Remind the authorities that they should live up to Egypt’s obligations under CEDAW, the ICCPR and the ICESCR.

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

  • Prime Minister Mr. Hesham Qandil, Magless El Shaàb Street, Al Kasr El Einy, Cairo, EGYPT / Phone: +202-2793-5000, Fax: +202-2795-8048, Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg

With a copy to:

  • Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, 11 Al’ourubah Street, Cairo, EGYPT / Fax: +202-241-83761,  E-mail: amd@mmc.gov.eg (note: some emails have not been going through to this address; online signatures will be collected and faxed.)

Letters: 

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to express support for the continuing demand of Egyptian women to be fully integrated in all post-revolution institutions and policy frameworks as laid out in the Egyptian Women’s Charter that has been signed by more than 500,000 people and submitted to you by Michele Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women.  

Egyptian women worked side-by-side with men in the revolution and deserve to be recognized as full and equal citizens post-revolution. This would be in line with the Egyptian constitution and Egypt’s international obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The Women’s Charter lays out concrete steps towards gender equality that will be reiterated on International Women's Day 2012. I urge you to ensure that: 

  • Women are represented in the committee that will be entrusted with drafting the new constitution, in all legislative committees, and in all dialogue forums that discuss national issues;
  • Women occupy at least 40% of the ministerial positions and 30% of parliamentary electoral lists are comprised of women;
  • The new constitution clearly spells out full equality between men and women in all spheres of life;
  • Women are provided equal opportunities in accessing the labor markets, credit, capital and skills training and protection from any kind of sexual harassment in the workplace;
  • All discriminatory legislation against women is reviewed and revised and in particular Family Law is reformed to reflect human dignity and justice for all members of the family;
  • Women graduates of law schools are provided equal opportunities to acquire judiciary posts;
  • A strong national women’s machinery is established along with gender focal points in all ministries and governorates; a gender equality committee is established inside the parliament; and an Ombudsperson for gender equality is appointed to ensure gender mainstreaming in all policies, plans and programs of the government; and 
  • A national policy is formulated to reflect a positive image of women and to help create a culture with no discrimination against women.

Such steps will ensure that Egyptian women and men have a brighter future based on self-determination, mutual respect and dignity.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

cc: Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
Fax: +202 241 83761

Continued Call for the Repeal of Saudi Arabia's Fatwa on Women Driving

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2011 May 26
Update Date: 
2012 Jun 11
Update: 

UPDATE June 2012: Saudi activists have been advocating for the right to drive for over twenty years with the most recent effort being the Women2Drive mass driving campaign launched in 2011. 17 June 2012 marks a year since the start of the Women2Drive campaign; however the government has still not taken action to give women the right to drive. Rather Saudi activists fighting for women’s rights are being targeted by the government. Manal Al-Sharif who spearheaded the Women2Drive campaign has been persecuted for her efforts including through imprisonment, threats and the loss of her job for speaking out for women’s right to drive. TAKE ACTION NOW!

This 17 June, Saudi activists are calling for renewed support of the Women2Drive campaign by asking women and men around the world to drive to Consulates and Embassies of Saudi Arabia and honk to show their support. Please join us in supporting the ongoing efforts of Saudi women claiming the right to drive and continue to call on the Saudi government to lift the ban on women driving.

__________

UPDATE (16 February 2012): Reportedly, two Saudi women’s rights activists, Manal Al-Sherif and Samar Badawi, have filed lawsuits against the Interior Ministry for refusing to issue them driver’s licenses. They assert that because no law explicitly bars women from driving, there is no justification for refusing to issue them driver’s licenses. While the Fatwa, or religious edict, prohibiting women from driving is not legally binding, it is enforced by the authorities and so effectively has the force of law in Saudi Arabia. Equality Now supports the efforts of women human rights defenders seeking to hold the Saudi government accountable and claim the right to drive and thus freedom of movement, which is key to the realization of associated rights, including the right to education, healthcare, and employment. Please join us as we continue to support Saudi women’s efforts and urge the Saudi government to repeal this Fatwa, which violates Saudi women’s basic human rights. 

__________

UPDATE (29 September 2011): According to reports, the Saudi King has revoked a sentence of flogging imposed on a woman for driving a car in Jeddah.  The woman was sentenced to ten lashes by a Jeddah court on 27 September 2011.  Reportedly, two other Saudi women are also facing charges for driving.  Please write to the Saudi government to release any women detained or arrested for driving and issue orders that women drivers should not be detained, arrested or harassed in any way.  Please continue to express support for the women involved in the Women2Drive campaign and call on the government to lift the ban on women driving.
 

Equality Now is deeply concerned about Saudi Arabia’s Fatwa on Women’s Driving of Automobiles (Shaikh Abdel Aziz Bin Abdallah Bin Baz), 1990, and the recent arrest of Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sherif who was detained on 22 May 2011 in the eastern city of Dammam.  According to reports, she was one of the organizers of an online campaign protesting Saudi Arabia’s driving ban and twice drove an automobile to further their cause.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia asking him to eliminate and remedy this violation by repealing this Fatwa. Urge him to ensure equality and non-discrimination for women in Saudi Arabia, both under the law and in practice. Please send a similar letter to the Minister of Justice. 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to: 

His Majesty, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Royal Court
Riyadh
KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Tel: +966 1 488 22 22

His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul El Karim Abdul Azziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741

With a copy to:
The Human Rights Commission, P.O. Box 58889 Riyadh 11515, King Fahed Street, Building 373, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Email: hrc@haq-ksa.org

Letters: 

[Your Highness] [Dear Minister],

I am writing to express my deep concern about Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving as exemplified in the Fatwa issued by Shaikh Abdel Aziz Bin Abdallah Bin Baz in 1990.

For over twenty years Saudi women have been claiming their right to drive but no action has been taken by the government to address their demands. Rather the government is targeting Saudi activists for their work to support women’s rights. Reportedly, women’s rights activist Manal Al-Sherif is being persecuted for her efforts including through threats and the loss of her job for speaking out against the government. I would like to express support for these brave women and for the growing numbers of Saudi women who are claiming their right to drive, as key to their freedom of movement, and who are urging the authorities to lift the effective ban on women drivers. 

I respectfully call on you to ensure that the Interior Ministry grant driver’s licenses to qualified women applicants, and to issue clear instructions that women drivers should not be detained, arrested or harassed in any way. I urge the authorities to repeal the Fatwa and lift the ban which effectively prevents women from driving and undermines women’s ability to realize their rights. I also ask you to ensure equality and non-discrimination for women in Saudi Arabia, both under the law and in practice. 

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

Cc: The Human Rights Commission (email: hrc@haq-ksa.org)

Afghan government should withdraw proposed bill to take over women’s shelters

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2011 Feb 5
Update Date: 
2011 May 19
Update: 

UPDATE 19 May 2011: Following widespread criticism of government proposals to take over independent women’s shelters in Afghanistan, the draft regulation was reviewed by civil society organizations and the Criminal Law Review Working Group, comprised of experts from the Afghan Government, and national and international organizations including the UN. The new draft allows shelters to be operated by the government as well as by licensed non-governmental organizations. It also includes provisions which clarify the government’s role in the regulation and oversight of protection centers, and establishes a Department of Protection Centers within the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and coordination committees in each province. This draft is currently awaiting approval from the Council of Ministers.
_______

UPDATE 28 February 2011: While the government of Afghanistan has reportedly agreed to discard their plans to take over women’s shelters, our partners in Afghanistan have informed Equality Now that details are not finalized and a number of outstanding questions remain. Please continue to call on the Afghan government to withdraw the proposed Bill and on donor countries to listen to the concerns Afghan women’s rights activists.

Equality Now is deeply concerned about a proposed Bill by the government of Afghanistan that would relegate women’s shelters, currently being operated by several independent women’s organizations, to the management of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA).

What You Can Do: 

Please contact the Afghan officials below calling on them to withdraw the proposed Bill and ensure that Afghan women who need shelter have a safe place to go where they will get the support they need. Ask also that the government of Afghanistan takes strong steps to live up to its Constitutional and international commitments, including under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to ensure equality for women and access to justice. Please also write to the main donors to Afghanistan asking them to heed the voices of Afghan women in supporting women’s rights in the country.

Letters should be addressed to:

Afghan government

President Hamid Karzai
Gul Khana Palace
Presidential Palace
Kabul, Afghanistan
Email: president@afghanistangov.org (if you get an error message, can also send care of Feroz Mohmand, Executive Assistant to the President Spokesperson feroz.mohmand@live.com.)

Dr Husn Banu Ghazanfar
Minister of Women Affairs
Ministry of Women’s Affairs
Email: info@mowa.gov.af

Professor Habibullah Ghalib
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Kabul, Afghanistan
Email: ab.qayum@hotmail.com
Tel: + 93 20 2100 322

Letters: 

Dear President Karzai/Minister Habibullah Ghalib/ Minister Husn Banu Ghazanfar [delete as appropriate]

I write to you with deep concern regarding news that the Afghan government has proposed a Bill which would pass the running of women’s shelters in Afghanistan, previously managed by women’s organizations, to the Afghan government.  The new draft regulations propose unwarranted government control over the acceptance, regime and release of women seeking the protection of these shelters.  This could dissuade already terrified and vulnerable women from seeking help and so risk their further harm or even death.  I understand that the government may now be reconsidering its position, which would be welcome news, however reports that Afghan women remain subject to extremely high levels of violence and have restricted access to justice are very worrying. 

I was concerned to learn that a joint report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued in 2009 states that “Afghan women have repeatedly reported that they have lost faith in the law enforcement and judicial institutions that they consider ineffective, incompetent, dysfunctional and corrupt.  Referring an incident to the police, the national directorate of security (i.e., the intelligence service) or a prosecutor is said to be of no avail; cases are usually not taken seriously, properly recorded or acted upon.  Ultimately, authorities are not willing or are not in a position to provide women at risk with any form of protection to ensure their safety”.  This also underlines the critical need for independently-run shelters to give women the support they need.  

I respectfully urge you to ensure that the plans to take over these shelters are immediately discarded.  Rather, the Afghan government must be encouraged to take strong steps to address the underlying reasons why women and girls in Afghanistan are compelled to go to women’s shelters to seek security and support.  This would include ensuring violence against women is prevented and punished to the full extent of the law and providing women full access to justice in accordance with Afghanistan’s Constitutional and international commitments, including under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Thank you for your attention.

Respectfully yours,

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