Musawah Vision - Issue 19: December 2015
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Issue 19: December 2015

An update on Musawah issues and activities
Muslim Family Law News & Beyond
Gambia: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) banned - Guardian
India: Ban triple talaq says Muslims women's rights group - One India
Indonesia: Government to revamp family planning measures  - Asia One
Morocco: Fatema Mernissi, a founder of Islamic feminism, dies - New York Times
Morocco: Human Rights Council releases report on gender equality - CNDH
Saudi Arabia: Female voter turnout nearly 80% in places - Peninsula-Qatar
Saudi Arabia: Divorced women and widows to get greater legal powers - The Guardian
Sri Lanka: Domestic worker to be stoned to death by Saudi Arabia - We Are Change

Capacity Building


Musawah I-nGEJ Middle East & North Africa

Musawah hosted its sixth 'Islam & Gender Equality and Justice' course (I-nGEJ, pronounced 'I engage') in Rabat, Morocco from 29 November to 4 December 2015. The regional course was designed specifically for activists and leaders in the MENA region, who applied to the course via an open call for applications.

The 21 selected participants from 7 countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia) were selected from over 80 applicants - women and men who work on gender and human rights in the MENA region. All participants committed to apply the knowledge gained in diverse, creative, and strategic ways to improve the rights of women in Muslim contexts.
Participants of Musawah I-nGEJ MENA Regional Course

'The course had multiple values for me. Firstly, it allowed me to question assumptions that much of our understanding of the role of women in Muslim society is based on. It helped me better understand that actually, there is no black and while, and that Islam is dynamic and adaptive to the needs of humanity. On a personal level, it also helped restore my belief in Islam as a system of justice and equality - in the times we live in, it is sometimes difficult to see how Islam is a fair religion, but this course showed me how to separate the religion from its practice. In terms of confronting injustice and inequity, I feel the course better equipped me to confront justifications for injustice.'
~I-nGEJ MENA course participant
Read more

If your organisation or network is interested in hosting a national- or regional-level course, please contact Natasha Dar, Capacity Building Officer:

International Advocacy

Musawah at 62nd UN CEDAW Session  

At the 62nd UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) Session in Geneva in October 2015, Musawah challenged the ways the Governments of Lebanon and the UAE use religion to justify discrimination and non-compliance with its treaty obligations. Strategic interventions included submission of the thirteenth and fourteenth Musawah Thematic Reports on Muslim Family Law in Lebanon and UAE, and delivery of Musawah's tenth Oral Statement on UAE. Musawah interventions in the Committee's engagement with the UAE as particularly crucial, given the lack of Emirati civil society representation in Geneva, as well as the broader lack of women's rights activism in UAE.

In growing recognition of Musawah's research and advocacy, the CEDAW Committee's Constructive Engagement session and its final Concluding Observations to the State parties reflect Musawah's critical research and arguments. In its dialogue with the UAE delegation, CEDAW experts urged the Government to study, 'the practices of countries with similar cultural backgrounds and legal systems that have successfully harmonised their national legislation with their international human rights obligations.' The experts urged the Emirati State party to 'bridge the disconnection between the provisions of the Personal Status Law and the reality of women's work and lives on the ground as amply described by the delegation of the State party' regarding access to education and employment.  
Read more

Musawah Submission to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Protection of the Family

In its submission to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on HRC Resolution 29/22 on Protection of the Family, Musawah calls for equality and justice for women, men, and children within Muslim families and the broader Muslim community (ummah).

Musawah asserts that the most effective way to protect the institution of the family and ensure an adequate standard of living for all family members is to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of all individuals within all families in their diverse forms.

Musawah hopes that the High Commissioner will consider two main points in particular in developing his report: (1) Many laws, policies, and practices related to families in Muslim contexts are discriminatory and unjust, and need to be changed; and (2) discriminatory laws, even if based on religion or culture, can be changed to ensure equality and justice for all individuals within the family.

Musawah notes that the structural and institutional inequality, discrimination, and abuses within Muslim family laws and practices are based on assumptions encapsulated in the legal concepts of qiwamah (male authority) and wilayah (male guardianship over women and children).
Read more

Calling All Activists Engaging at 63rd, 64th and 65th UN CEDAW Sessions
Musawah seeks to connect with activists from Tanzania, France, Myanmar, Philippines, Turkey, Bangladesh and Canada who are engaged in the shadow reporting process for the 63rd, 64th and 65th CEDAW Sessions in Geneva.

Musawah's international advocacy work supports activists to strengthen their arguments critically examining the status of marriage and family relations, as encapsulated largely in Articles 2, 9, 15, and 16 of the CEDAW Convention.

Please contact Natasha Dar, the Musawah International Advocacy Officer,
To view all Musawah Thematic Reports and Oral Statements, click here.

Building Our Movement

Malaysia: National Convention on Muslim Family Laws

As part of Sisters in Islam's (SIS) Muslim Family Law campaign, a three-day national convention on Family Law reform was held 16-18 October 2015. This event brought together some 200 participants from all over Malaysia to demand better implementation and access to justice for Muslim women in Syariah courts.

The convention kicked off with a public forum titled 'Bila Isteri Jadi Suami?' (Women as Breadwinners). This panel, comprising single mother Anorziana Ahmad, former Chief Judge of Terengganu Syariah Court Ismail Yahya, SIS Executive Director Ratna Osman and Qur'anic tafsir expert Dr Nur Rofiah, discussed the changing reality of marriages today where most wives have taken up the role as breadwinner, traditionally viewed as the responsibility of men. 

It was a great opportunity for grass-roots SIS supporters, including single mothers, to voice their concerns and strategise lobbying plans in their demands for just laws for Muslim women.
To follow the latest updates from SIS, visit their Facebook page

The Gambia: Human Rights Day Symposium

To mark the end of '16 Days of Activism' and celebrate Human Rights Day, the Gambian Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) held a symposium on 10th December 2015, which focused on the banning of female genital mutilation in the Gambia.

GAMCOTRAP's decades-long campaign to raise awareness on FGM and the rights of the girl child has culminated in a draft law that is currently being reviewed by the Women's Bureau and the Office of the Vice President of Women's Affairs. It is the hope of GAMCOTRAP that the document will reach the National Assembly soon.
Read more

For more information on the work of GAMCOTRAP, visit their website

Musawah in the News

  • Gambia's Foraya Newspaper interviewed Musawah Advocate and Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr Isatou Touray, who recalls the rough journey to the pronounced banning of FGM in her country:
  • The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported on the dismissal of charges against Musawah Advocate and co-founder of the Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA), Azza Soliman:
  • Women's historian and Musawah Advocate, Professor Hatoon Al-Fassi, was recently interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR), USA, about the recent elections in her country Saudi Arabia, and what it means for women:
  • The Middle East Blog, a product of "The New Middle East: Emerging Political and Ideological Trends" (NewME), a 5-year research project based at the University of Oslo's Centre for Islamic and Middle East Studies (CIMS), discussed the scholarship and activism of Musawah Advocate Professor Amina Wadud:

An Intern Speaks!

Sanjana Gogna (New Delhi, India): BA Political Science - Miranda House, University of Delhi

My one-month experience interning with Musawah at Sisters in Islam in Kuala Lumpur was a dynamic experience with a team of fearless, passionate and enthusiastic women. It was impossible not to be influenced by them. I gained well-rounded knowledge about Sharia Laws and how they are executed in various Muslim contexts. I also received training in conducting research, media monitoring and other skills that will help me in my career as an activist and scholar.

I was also able to connect with my colleagues on a personal level, where we discussed and explored various dimensions of feminism and Islam. I look forward to more future engagements with Musawah and wish the Secretariat a smooth transition to Morocco.
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In If the Oceans Were Ink, Carla Power, a journalist who grew up in the American Midwest and the Middle East offers her perspective on the Qur'an's most provocative verses, as she and her long-time friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi embark on a year-long journey to understand the Text: 

'I know of no other religion in which women were so central in its formative history.'

~ Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi

The Kairos Center for Religion, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary has compiled a collection of writings on the past, present, and possible relationship between human rights and religion:

'Recognising that even the term "religions" can be a highly contested and problematic one, the focus of this work and writing is on the "lived religion" of people fighting for social justice. The goal is to understand more deeply and communicate more widely how those fighting for their values, rights and lives are confronting, adapting and drawing from religious traditions in their work as well as opposing the abuse of religious power.'


Faithfully Feminist is a compilation of essays from 45 women across the three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam who write about the struggles they face identifying as religious feminists:

'In a world where women's issues are political issues, women are judged for their positions in relation to their claimed identities. Feminists argue that you cannot be a "true" feminist if you are a practicing Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Likewise, religious practitioners claim that you cannot be a "true" Christian, Muslim, or Jew if you support feminist values. Nevertheless, women who practice these religious traditions and hold feminist values are not uncommon, and the question "why do you stay?" is on that is frequently asked of them.'
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