Women Victimization

The annual reminder from Equality Now:

"On April 6th, 1999 29 year_old Sarnia Sarwar Imran was shot in her lawyer's
office where she was seeking assistance in getting a divorce from her
abusive husband. Samia's killer had been sent by her family and was in fact
brought to the office by Samia's own mother and her uncle, who was armed
and threatened to shoot the office staff if they tried to leave or call the
police. Criminal charges were immediately filed against Sarnia's parents
and her uncle, yet they were not arrested. In August a resolution presented
in the Pakistani Senate condemning the killing of Sarnia and the practice
of "honor killings" was rejected. Meanwhile, Sarnia's lawyer Hina Jilani, a
well_known women's rights advocate, has received numerous death threats. It
is estimated that hundreds of honor killings take place every year in Pakistan.

I am writing to update you on the recent activities of Equality Now and to
ask you to renew your support with a year_end contribution to help us
continue our work. Over the past six months we have been campaigning
actively for the elimination of laws which discriminate against women. Yet
the challenge is staggering. In Lesotho, married women are still legally
prohibited from owning property. In Nepal, a woman cannot by law inherit
property unless she is 35 and unmarried. In Uruguay, a woman can be
abducted and raped by a man who will be legally exempt from punishment if
he subsequently marries her. In Nigeria, a husband is legally allowed to
beat his wife for the purpose of "correcting" her, and in Syria, a husband
is legally allowed to kill his wife, or any other female relative, for
committing adultery. There are literally thousands of laws around the world
which institutionalize and perpetuate discrimination against women, and
even condone deadly violence against women. As we enter the new millennium,
women are still denied the most fundamental human right to equality before
the law.

Despite the universal public acknowledgment that all human beings are born
equal in dignity and in rights, changing laws which condone violence
against women is extremely controversial. In Jordan the Lower House of
Parliament just rejected - by an overwhelming majority - an amendment to
abolish the legal reduction in penalty for men who murder their female
relatives in cases of "honor killings." One Member of Parliament was quoted
as saying that "females are the ones who take the initiative and
demonstrate consent to committing adultery," and that to change this law
would be "an invitation to obscenity." He collected signatures from 27
Members of Parliament who felt the amendment should not even be discussed,
and during the debate only one Member of Parliament spoke in favor of the
amendment. In 1998 at least 22 women were killed in Jordan in the name of
family honor, and this year more than 14 cases have been reported.

To this day, in a number of countries around the world, there is vocal and
active support for the idea that men have a right to kill women in order to
preserve their own sense of "honor." Having laws to protect women from this
violence is just a first step. These laws must be enforced in order for
them to have meaning. Even here in the United States, last month in Fort
Worth, Texas a man named Jimmy Watkins was sentenced to four months in
prison for shooting his wife to death after finding her with a lover. The
jury which found him guilty of this murder had recommended that he be put
on probation without any prison sentence, deciding that he had acted with
"sudden passion." A verdict like this is in effect a license to kill. The
law, as well as law enforcement, must send a different message to would_be
killers - that violence against women will no longer be tolerated."

courtesy of George Richards/2600 Columbia Ave./Castlegar/B.C./Canada/V1N 2X6
phone: 1-250-365-7180 fax: 1-250-365-3295 e-mail: tdrop@web.net
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