Saudi Arabia Grapples with Women's Right to Drive Within Existing Restrictions

SAUDI ARABIA - A common Western activity such as driving has been an issue for women in Saudi Arabia for ages. Although women over thirty have been allowed to drive, this right has been curtailed by the stringent restriction to which they are forced to adhere.

Currently, "Saudi Arabian laws" limit their freedom to drive outside of a proscribed schedule which prohibits them driving after 8:00 p.m. Also, an additional restrictive and seemingly punitive issue is that women who are driving are forbidden to wear make-up while operating the vehicle. One would presumably understand the restriction against distracted drivers using cell phones and other communication devices thus taking their attention away from the road, but the wearing of make-up does not seem to fall into this category as women are allowed to wear it in all other instances.

This matter came to the attention of the world because the consul of Saudi Arabia has put on the table for discussion the possibility of removing the time constraints, and also considering the option of allowing women older than 30-years-old to operate a vehicle during restricted hours. Though, these discussion are not open to the public, it seems that this is a growing necessity for a society that is increasingly mobile and where the use of a vehicle would greatly enhance the performance of such mundane duties such as grocery shopping, picking up children from school, etc.

Although the decision to reassess the restrictions imposed on women drivers seems precipitous, in fact women have been actively campaigning for this basic right to drive for years. The consul stated that there is the necessity to create a “female traffic department" in order to bring precise control over the matter, in case a car suffers some damage while being utilized by a woman. There are also restrictions when it comes to women interacting with men while driving. Though these discussion seem to be a recognition of the need for equal rights for women in terms of driving, the additional restriction makes us wonder if this response is a ploy to seemingly comply with women's rights group while in fact devaluing the struggle in which many women defied the laws, boldly driven their cars, and consequently suffered punishment.

Additionally, the existing restriction have resulted in a culture of families hiring drivers to transport women. But, what happens when the traditional family does not have the economic resources to hire someone? Women then are directly dependent of spouses, siblings, parents and even their children in order to accomplish their daily activities, and such restriction are unduly punitive for women who are in the lower classes. Thus, the current debate is considering the possibility that under certain conditions women might drive more days of the week during the hours between 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Restrictions regarding wearing make-up and interacting with men during the driving are not up for discussion and will likely remain in place.

According to The Associated Press, "There have been small, but increasingly bold protests by women who took to their cars in open defiance....over the past year despite the restrictions. The driving ban, which is unique in the world, was imposed because the kingdom's ultraconservative Muslim clerics say "licentiousness" will spread if women drive.”

A protest occurred last October when Saudi women drove around their neighborhoods and recorded themselves on videos which they then posted on social networks such as YouTube as a means to publicize their plight and reinforce their belief in the right to protest this unjust situation. Although there isn't a written law that limits schedules or outlines formal details on restrictions imposed on women driver, these unwritten cultural restrictions have been ubiquitously enforced, and punishments have varied between jail time or other sanctions.

In 2011 forty women protested against the driving ban and as a consequence one of them was sentenced to 10 lashes; however this barbaric punishment was subsequently overturned by the king. The revocation of this sentence can be viewed as an improvement since the situation has been discussed for years over what type of judgement should be meted out for women who break the de facto "driving ban" laws, and corporal punishment of women who are considered disobedient is actively practiced in other traditional cultures.

Since the consuls' discussion are private and there has been no indication of when an announcement of their decision will be made, women who have been demanding their right to drive continue to peacefully protest by driving despite these anachronistic traditions.

Indonesian Women Suffer Higher Rates of Caining as Punishment

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 23:06 p.m. DST, 20 May 2014

Taliban beating woman in public Photo by: RAWAEAST ACEH, Indonesia - A 25-year-old widow claims she was raped by eight men after they allegedly found her with a married man in her home in Lhokbani, a village in East Aceh district. The man, 40, and woman were beaten and doused with sewage before they were turned over to Islamic police in the Aceh province.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, consisting of 240 million people. More than 90% of Indonesians describe themselves as Muslims though most practice a moderate form of Islam. Indonesia has a policy of secularism but Aceh, a principally Muslim province on the northern tip of Sumatra, practices a version of Sharia Islamic law.

The right to use Islamic law was granted to Aceh in a bid to end a long-running separatist insurgency and give the province more autonomy. Special police enforce this law and regular police forces enforce criminal law for cases such as rape.

Ibrahim Latif, head of Sharia law in the district, said his office recommends the widow and the man be caned nine times for violating religious law. Latif believes the two violated Sharia law simply by being in the same room together, though Latif claims that the widow and the man admitted to having had sex earlier. He is married with five children.

Police have arrested three of the eight men and are searching for the others. Latif said the eight could be caned for the rape but, “it will be too lenient if they just received the same punishment of nine strokes.” Caning was introduced as punishment with the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law of 2001 for crimes such as alcohol consumption, adultery, being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a spouse or relative, and eating, drinking, or selling food during the sunlight hours of Ramadan, a month of fasting.

Many of Aceh’s Sharia laws are thought to target women, such as an incident this spring when police pulled women over and forced them to sit sideways on motorbikes, legs dangling near the rear wheel. The police and members of the public conduct raids to ensure women adhere to the local dress codes, and in 2012, 62 women in Bireuen district were detained for wearing tight clothing.

Lt. Col Hariadi, East Aceh police chief said the men arrested are being questioned on charges of rape. One of the accused, a 13-year-old boy, will be charged as an adult but prosecuted in a closed-door trial. The criminal charge of rape carries a maximum incarceration of 15 years. Officials have said that the sexual assault will not be taken into consideration in determining the punishment of the religious crime she was committing.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCElswick

Besse Cooper, Supercentenarian, Turns 116

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:56 PM EDT, 29 August 2012

Besse Cooper, Oldest Woman in World, Photo by Waltonemc.comGEORGIA, United States – On Sunday, 27 August 2012, Besse Cooper, who is currently the world’s oldest person, celebrated her 116th birthday. She is the eighth person in the world to be verified by Guinness World Records as reaching this esteemed age.

Cooper was born in Tennessee in 1896, and has been certified by Guinness as the fourth oldest American supercentenarian. At her birthday celebration, according to MSNBC , Cooper was presented with “a plaque by Guinness World Records senior consultant of gerontology Robert Young during her birthday festivities at her nursing home in Monroe, Georgia.”

According to Guinness, Cooper is seven years shy of the 122 years lived by Jeanne Louis Calment, a French native who died on 4 August 1997. As expected, Cooper, who married in 1924 and had four children, is now, a grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-grandmother of numerous off-spring.

Every person is unique and there is no one secret to living a long and healthy life, but Cooper attributes it in part to “not eating junk food” and “minding my own business.” Most of the individuals who have been fully authenticated by Guinness as being the oldest people in the world, have primarily been women, which supports the empirical evidence that women live longer than men.

However, the oldest undisputed lifespan for a male supercentenarian is that of Christian Mortensen, who lived for 115 years and 252 days.  The oldest living man since the death of 114-year old Walter Breuning on 14 April 2011 is 115-year-old Jiroemon Kimura of Japan. He was born on 19 April 1897.[Wikipedia]

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Skin Color Wars

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Powerful! In an era when money and fame or lack thereof is the prevailing currency of worth, it is sad to witness people judging each other on the specious notion of skin color.

I experienced this upon my return from Africa and never understood the self-hatred. Not only a must view for Black Americans, but also scroll down to watch a skin lightening commercial for the India market.

Will Bollywood reject you if you are too dark? Apparently so, according to the article below about India's Vogue Magazine featuring darker models.

Sade, Timeless

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:30 PM EDT, 27 April 2012 First Published: 15:03 PM EDT, 15 January 2010

Sade, Photo by OutkastedLONDON, England - Helen Folasade Adu “Sade”, 53, who was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, has come out with a follow-up single to "Soldier of Love," aptly titled "Love is Found." It is amazing to watch and listen to a woman who has been performing since 1984, and whose musical style has remained consistently outstanding and timeless.

I think in part her longevity is due to the private nature of her life, as it seems she has wisely chosen to focus her public persona entirely on her music. But for a brief moment when she experienced a terribly painful breakup, this seems little more than a blip compared to the drama that regularly plays out in the tabloids and news media about today's "musicians."

Sade is a songstress, an artist who harkens back to vocalist like Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, to name a few. Women who inhabited their talent with grace and class. We have chosen to update this post because of the recent news comparing Sade to Adele, another British superstar, and rumors of another album release.

Sade's soulful renderings come from a place borne of the experiences of a woman who has known and lost love, who is daughter and mother, who has navigated the complexities of a heritage that is both African and European, and who has passed through the agonies of heartbreak and pain played out in the public domain.

Her commitment to her music is what continues to draw fans to listen to and buy her music which has remained relevant even with a nine-year hiatus. She is the epitome of a true artist who is beholden first and foremost to their craft.

She possesses the patience to await the muse of inspiration that has once again enabled her to deliver a song that is "classic," evocative, and boldly revealing. She remains an inspiration to those of us who seek to live boldly without artifice, to display without sentiment our triumphs and foibles, and to experience the spectrum of emotional interactions that makes us uniquely human.

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Music video by Sade performing Love Is Found. (c) 2011 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

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Music video by Sade performing Soldier Of Love (c) 2010 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

Watch the making of "Soldier Of Love" below.

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Dominique Strauss-Khan | Sex Addict, Pimp

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Original post date: 21 May 2011Last Modified: 20:44 PM EDT, 26 March 2012
 
Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been charged in France with “aggravated pimping” for his alleged participation in a prostitution ring.
 

Dominique Strauss-Kahn bat le bitumePARIS, France - When the media reported on the attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former managing director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) it seemed strange that they referred to the victim as a chambermaid.

The assignation of this descriptor to the rape victim in the 21st century was incongruous.  A fact that must have been noticed as  the media in subsequent coverage began to refer to her as a cleaning women. In this country and in particular within the hospitality industry cleaning women are invisible.

Cleaning is an honorable job and many hard-working individuals have raised their children  by virtue of working in this industry; and thus afforded them the opportunity to move into the professional arena.  As with previous  groups, the first generation often provided the platform upon which subsequent generations built.

Most people however, have utterly no regard and in some cases disdain for these industrious individuals.  Because of their disdain they rarely grant these workers consideration nor acknowledgement as fellow human being.  Strauss-Kahn displayed a disregard for this Muslim woman's humanity as he sought to use her for his base desires.

When I heard about the 'chambermaid' from Guinea who despite the shame this accusation could cause her, displayed uncommon courage in reporting the attempted rape, I was proud of her.  It took a lot for a woman of "such low station" to resist and then report this attempted rape by such a 'powerful' man.  Because of her courage the authorities were able to apprehend Strauss-Kahn as he tried to flee the country.

The fact that this would be rapist had the audacity to attack a woman is unconscionable but it is even more shameful that he would dishonor this Muslim woman by attempting to touch her at all.  Orthodox Muslim, Jewish and Christian women are prohibited from touching or being touched by a man other than her husband.  Such an act would be considered totally inappropriate and one against which they would vigilantly guard.

Strauss-Kahn, was a likely candidate for the presidency of France and thus befitted the station of an aristocrat.  He has since resigned his position at the IMF and in the days following his high-profile arrest this baronial figure was released on a $1 million  dollar bond and sentenced to house arrest.

Without a doubt this is yet another example of one rule of justice for the rich and another for the poor.  The reason that I referred to Strauss-Kahn as a baron is because of his imperious nature and the air of entitlement that he projects.  A baron is one name for a nobleman of the middle ages.  In the middles ages the legal system that existed was feudalism.  Within this system the Upper Class of which barons were a part, ruled their fiefdoms with tyranny and injustice.

These fiefdoms contained large swaths of land which were farmed by the lower classes who were referred to as peasants or serfs.  Either free, slaves or indentured servants, their lives were one of hardship, misery and fear.  The feudal lords had absolute dominion over every aspect of their lives.  In fact, a lord could rape any peasant woman without fear of reprisal and often their husbands were powerless to stop the defilement.

The reason that I chose to refer to the victim as a charwoman is because it is term as equally incongruous to our century as is chambermaid.  The definition of a charwoman is, "quite literally, a woman who does ‘chores’. Already by the 15th century it had connotations of menial or household jobs: ‘making the beds and such other chares’." (Source: Word-Origins)

My friend who is from Trinidad and Tobago told me a saying from her country which I believe is totally apropos here - "every hog has it Saturday."  It means that each time the butcher goes to get a hog for slaughter the other pigs squeal (it seems with delight) that it is not them.  But their turn is coming and some Saturday they will adorn a table as the main course of a meal; and so it is with Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  His Saturday has come.

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Victoria Seeds | Josephine Okot

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:23 PM EDT, 13 March 2012

Baskets of Beans in Market, Photo by One.org

Baskets of Beans in Market, Photo by One.org

KAMPALA, Uganda - With the recent fervor over the viral Joseph Kony video, Uganda has shot to the forefront of many American’s consciousness. There are many tragedies occurring across the Continent, and we have focused most recently on the genocide that is occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In keeping with our mission, we strive for balanced reporting and to present positive stories of Africans making a difference in their lives and the lives of their communities.

Josephine Okot is the type of person of whom we are speaking. She is a Ugandan entrepreneur who invested a lot of sweat equity into building a company that promotes sustainable agriculture through seed delivery. She founded Victoria Seeds Ltd in 2004, and has grown the company from a struggling start-up which could not get bank financing to become Uganda’s leading seed house marketing over 90 seed varieties of cereal, legume, horticultural, oil and forage crops in the domestic and regional market.

Although, Ms. Okot’s business model is based upon helping farmers grow bot staple and cash crops, her company is essentially modeled after agro-dealers in other emerging markets who seek to increase market share and profits by educating their consumers. Victoria Seeds provides management skills and farming techniques to help them increase their yields and bring their product to market more profitably.

In 2006, according to their website they “opened a Sales Outlet in 2006 at Nakivubo place to facilitate seed delivery to agro-dealers. They also established a research facility thereafter at Kawanda in 2007 to research and develop new varieties adapted to our environment. The company commissioned a seed processing and research facility in Gulu in 2008 to improve seed availability to communities resettling in Northern Uganda and started engaging largely women in the regional seed industry supply chain.”

In an interview, Ms. Okot said that one of her beliefs is that business can only survive when society thrives. She is also passionate about women’s empowerment. In a small town bordering Sudan, her company is helping women who were previously living in refugee camps surviving off the UN’s World Food Aid program, can now farm and provide for their food as well as monetary needs.

These women, during the height of the conflict in Northern Uganda, were no longer able to care for themselves or their children. Like the DRC, weaponized rape was used to control and subdue the populace, and when women left the camps in search of firewood or water, they were at great risk of being raped and violently killed.

Victoria’s Seeds also provides training because these women are not professional farmers, and many employ the practice of broadcast planting which is very ineffective. They are instructed in the proper planting of crops in rows that are well spaced. They are also being trained to plant single crops per field to increase yield and quality.

According to the company, ‘in 2011 they opened a third Processing and marketing facility in Masindi Town to expand its processing capacity and meet the increasing country demand for improved seed.” We have featured Ms. Okot and Victoria’s Seeds because of her company’s core mission of empowering rural women.

Visit Victoria’s Seeds official website here.

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