FaithWorld

from The Human Impact:

Swift action needed in fight against child marriage – UNFPA report

Despite gains in some countries, more than 14 million girls under age 18 will be married each year over the next 10 years, a figure expected to increase to more than 15 million girls a year between 2021 and 2030, according to a new report from the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) released on Thursday.

As the number of girls who are married as children grows, the number of children bearing children will increase, and deaths among girls will rise, said the report, timed to mark the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

International conventions declare that child marriage is a violation of fundamental human rights because it denies girls the right to choose when and with whom to marry.

The negative implications are far-reaching for girls, often leading to their early departure from school, economic dependency and difficulty finding a vocation or work outside the home. The practice can also perpetuate cyclical poverty and increase susceptibility to such sexually transmitted diseases as HIV/AIDS.

"In those communities where the practice of child marriage remains common, families can feel it’s not worth investing at all in the education of their daughters,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive director who last month launched a global campaign urging countries to invest in the education of women and young people.

Ban on headscarves in schools upsets devout Muslims in Kosovo

kosovo scarfThe leader of a protest against Kosovo’s ban on headscarves in public schools says devout Muslims could resort to violence to get their way, though Islam is not central to the lives of most Kosovo Albanians.

The June 18 rally in the capital Pristina by 5,000 women in headscarves, supported by some bearded men, was held after a few headscarf-clad girls were prevented from entering their schools.  It was an extraordinary sight in Kosovo, whose 2 million population is 90 percent Muslim but mostly secular in lifestyle. (Photo: Kosovo Muslim women protest in Pristina against a headscarf ban in public schools, June 18, 2010/Hazir Reka)

The Kosovo education ministry banned religious garb in primary and high schools late last year, prompting heated debate about religious liberties in the country, a former province of Serbia that declared independence two years ago.

Ultra-Orthodox protest against Israeli ruling to integrate Jewish schools

orthodox jews 1

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Israel Thursday against a court order to desegregate a religious school and force Jewish girls of European and Middle Eastern descent to study together.

Demonstrations were held in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, a Tel Aviv suburb with a large population of religious Jews, before some 80 Ashkenazi parents, Jews of European origin, were to report to jail for defying the Supreme Court ruling.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox minority has long been at odds with the Jewish state’s highest judicial authority over edicts which some devout Jews say interfere with their religious lifestyle.

Poll: Pakistanis against Taliban, disagree over sharia views

swat-talibanA new poll shows public opinion in Pakistan has turned sharply against the Taliban and other Islamist militants, even though they still do not trust the United States and President Barack Obama. Reporting on the poll, our Asia specialist in Washington, Paul Eckert, said the WorldPublicOpinion.org poll, conducted in May as Pakistan’s army fought the Taliban in the Swat Valley, found that 81 percent saw the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda as a critical threat to the country, a jump from 34 percent in a similar poll in late 2007. Read Eckert’s report here. (Photo: Pakistani Taliban in Swat, 2 Nov 2007/Sherin Zada Kanju)

The poll shows a wide divergence between Pakistani public opinion and the views of the Taliban on the implementation of sharia, a religious issue sometimes cited to help explain earlier tolerance of the militants. Some 80 percent of the respondents said sharia permits education for girls, one of the first services the Taliban close down when they gain control of an area. And 75 percent said sharia allows women to work, which the Taliban do not.

Reflecting their distrust, 71 percent said they believed the Taliban would not even submit to the sharia courts that they themselves have set up or promised to install as a pure and speedy alternative to Pakistan’s corrupt and inefficient civil courts. Only 14 percent supported the Taliban claim that it could provide more effective and timely justice than the state, a claim that partly helped the Islamist militants in the past (although it must be added that only 56 percent expressed trust in the civil courts). Only 9 percent said they thought the Taliban would do better at fighting corruption than the government, which got a lukewarm 47 percent. In any case, these results seem to indicate very little support for trademark Taliban promises that once seemed attractive.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistani Taliban force girls’ schools to close

Taliban militants have banned female education in the northwest Pakistan valley of Swat, depriving more than 40,000 girls of schooling. Last month, the Taliban warned parents against sending their daughters to school, saying female education was "unIslamic".  The warning was reiterated by a close aide to militant leader Mullah Fazlullah in a message broadcast through an illegal FM radio station on Friday night. Government schools have been shut down and some 300 private schools due to reopen next month after the winter break will probably remain closed, a senior official said.

The development highlights the extent to which the Taliban have extended their influence from the tribal regions on the border with Afghanistan into Pakistan itself, and their willingness to challenge Pakistanis' way of life.

In the same vein, the blog All Things Pakistan, in a post headlined "Pakistan at War: No Women Allowed" runs a photo of a banner in Mingora, the main city in Swat, which it says reads: "Women are not allowed in the market."  It says the Taliban has banned the entry of women in markets and ordered the killing of women who violate the ban. "From the picture, this is clearly a textile and cloth market -- the type of market where, in Pakistan, you would expect most customers to be women," it says. It also says that most shop owners have sold or shut down their business because of falling sales.