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Egyptians outraged over some schools forcing girls to wear the hijab

A 13-year-old girl was recently forced to wear the hijab at her school in Egypt, which prompted a wave of condemnation that revealed similar practices across the country.


Al-Monitor (30.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3mLP73K – Controversy has recently surfaced in Egypt after a 13-year-old girl was forced to wear the hijab at the school she attends in Sharqia governorate. The incident has shed light on similar cases across the country.


Lamia Loutfi, the girl’s Muslim mother and program manager at the New Woman Foundation, a human rights institution based in Cairo that provides support to female victims of violence and discrimination, filed complaints Oct. 21 against the school’s teachers over their attempts to force girls, including her daughter, to wear the hijab.


She told Al-Monitor about the incident that took place Oct. 20. She was shocked to hear her daughter telling her that school officials had forced the girls to wear the hijab, including Christian students.


Loutfi contacted the school and the director confirmed what her daughter had told her, saying that all the girls are required to wear the hijab at school as part of their uniform and are free to remove it when they leave, and that girls in other schools are required to wear the hijab, too.


When she threatened to file a complaint against the school, the director said she will not allow Loutfi’s daughter to enter the school campus unless she wears the hijab. “They told me, ‘Take whatever measures you want. We will not allow the girl to enter the school. These are our conditions,’” Loutfi said.


Article 53 of the Egyptian Constitution stipulates, “Citizens are equal before the law, possess equal rights and public duties, and may not be discriminated against on the basis of religion, belief, sex, origin, race, color, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation or for any other reason.”


The hijab is an Islamic practice adopted by many women in Muslim countries. However, some Muslim women choose not to wear the veil.


This incident drew condemnation across the country, with parents launching the Arabic hashtag #forcing_girls_to_wear_the_hijab, revealing similar practices in many schools across Egypt. Some families have not opposed such practice out of fear that their children would be kicked out of school.


Hanan Noureddine, a Muslim housewife, told Al-Monitor that her two daughters, aged eight and 10, were forced to veil at the two schools they attend. “We got angry at first, but then we decided to let them wear the veil in order to avoid troubles with the school and bullying from the teachers.”


On Oct. 21, the National Council for Women filed a complaint to Minister of Education Tarek Shawki. The complaint included a plea from a mother whose daughter, along with other students, was threatened by her teachers and forced to wear the hijab under the pretext that it is part of the school’s uniform.


Kamal Mughith, an expert on educational affairs at the National Center for Educational Research and Development‎, condemned the attempts to force girls to wear the hijab at school, saying such practices deviate the attention from the school’s main role of providing education.


Speaking to Al-Monitor, Mughith stressed “the need that the education minister goes public on whether or not he supports such practices. The hijab should be a personal matter that girls themselves need to decide on, not an obligation under the pretext of a school uniform.”


Meanwhile, the New Woman Foundation circulated Oct. 21 a petition against forcing schoolgirls to wear the hijab, which dozens of institutions and public figures signed. The petition stressed the state’s obligations under the constitution to guarantee the rights of women and children to citizenship without any discrimination on the basis of gender or religion.


Shawki condemned the campaign and said that he is against forcing students to wear the hijab at school. He referred to this case as “an isolated incident” that people overreacted to. He said in a TV statement Oct. 22 that such campaigns are “similar to what the malicious channels and Egypt’s enemies do.”

Photo: A woman stands with books in front of a shelf inside the main building of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina library in the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, June 24, 2019. Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images.

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PAKISTAN: Teenage girls shot dead by relatives over online footage

Father of one victim and brother of the other arrested in connection with the murders.


By Hannah Ellis-Petersen


The Guardian (17.05.2020) – https://bit.ly/3bKqyOA – Two female teenagers in Pakistan have been murdered by family members after a video emerged online of them associating with a man.


The pair, said to be aged 16 and 18, were shot dead by male relatives in their remote village in North Waziristan this week after footage was posted online of them in the company of a young man in a secluded area.


After they were shot, the pair were then buried in the village by their family members.


Local police confirmed they had arrested the father of one of the victims, and the brother of the other victim, in connection with arranging and carrying out the murders, and they were now being held in custody.


The police are searching for two other family members believed to have been involved in the killings.


The footage of the women, which is less than a minute long, was said to have been filmed last year but only appeared on social media a few weeks ago. The police said they were still searching for a third young woman who also featured in the video to ensure she did not suffer the same fate.


The tribal areas in North and South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan, are known for the strict “honour code” imposed on women, whose movements are heavily restricted and who are often not allowed out of the house unaccompanied.


So called “honour” killings remain common in Pakistan’s tribal areas, mainly against women who are believed to have brought shame on a family, and activists say up to 1,000 such killings are still carried out every year.


The issue was brought to the fore in Pakistan in September after three men were found guilty and sentenced to life behind bars for the killing of three women in Kohistan who had been caught on video singing and clapping at a wedding in 2011. The women’s bodies were never found.


Though against the law, “honour” killing cases were previously difficult to convict owing to a loophole in the law that allowed perpetrators to walk free if they were given a pardon by the victim’s family member.


However, the crimes now come with a mandated life sentence.

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ECOWAS court deems Sierra Leone pregnant girl ban discriminatory

Sierra Leone government policy banning pregnant girls from attending school breaches the right of girls to access education, according to a ruling handed down by the Economic Community of Economic State (ECOWAS) Court of Justice on Thursday, and said that this policy is discriminatory– a victory for young girls.


By Laura Angela Bagnetto


Radio France Internationale (12.12.2019) – https://bit.ly/36EiKvK – “We hope this decision has an impact across Africa,” said Judy Gitau, Africa Regional Coordinator at Equality Now, who has worked on the case from the beginning and was present in the Abuja courtroom when the verdict was read.


“It not only sets out how such a practice is discriminatory, but it allows people to actually see how they’re relegating the young girls to a cycle of poverty and indignity,” she told RFI after the verdict.


A number of human rights groups, including Child Welfare Society, Equality Now and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IRHDA) and WAVES, a Sierra Leonean non-governmental organization, filed the case with the ECOWAS court in May 2018.


In court, the judges outlined the issues and succinctly answered each issue, said Gitau.


Discriminatory policy


The ECOWAS court said that Sierra Leone had an actual policy in place that banned school-age girls who fell pregnant. The government had argued that it was only an unfortunate statement from a minister, and not a policy. RFI reported on the issue back in 2015, where the chairman of the Conference of Principals indicated that it was a policy that was carried out in Sierra Leonean schools.


The court said that the ban was discriminatory and ordered the government to lift the ban with immediate effect.


The court also ordered the government to carry out four distinct measures in order to reduce teenage pregnancies in school. Providing sexual reproductive education, sensitising the communities on issues of discrimination, and abolishing the parallel, inadequate schools for pregnant girls.


The schools had been created by non-state actors, who only taught four subjects, three times a week, not in line with the Sierra Leone educational standards.


Vulnerable girls pay the price


The previous government had put this policy banning pregnant girls in place, but the advent of Ebola worsened the situation, according to Gitau.


A spike in teen pregnancies arose during and after the Ebola crisis.


“The majority of these girls were victims of sexual violence on account that their caregivers and guardians died and were no longer available,” said Gitau.


A decision with impact


Human rights groups hope that this ban will push other African countries who discriminate to change their stance.


“This delivers a clear message to other African governments who have similar bans, such as Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea, or may be contemplating them, that they should follow this groundbreaking ruling and take steps to allow pregnant girls access to education in line with their own human rights obligations,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s West Africa deputy campaign director.

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