[fund] promotion and application of religious laws

I was informed yesterday that at the Movies that Matter Festival's Award Ceremony in the Hague on Wednesday 31 March, I was awarded the first Golden Butterfly, Amnesty International's A Matter of ACT Award (€5,000), for the most imposing and inspiring human rights defender or organisation. The award was for my work campaigning for women’s equal rights that is documented in the film, ‘Women in Shroud’. I am so pleased and honoured to have been selected amongst such prominent activists as Rebiya Kadeer and Somaly Mam. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the ceremony, so I would like to send a few words to the Movies that Matter Festival organisers, concerning human rights and the situation of women in Iran.

A Malaysian woman sentenced to be caned for drinking beer has had her punishment commuted. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had pleaded guilty to the offence under Malaysia's Islamic law and was to have received six strokes of a rattan cane. But her family said religious officials had overturned the ruling, ordering her to carry out community service instead. Ms Kartika's original sentence, which had been delayed several times, had provoked fierce debate. While drinking alcohol is forbidden for Muslims, prosecutions are rare. Update on Malaysia: Revision of Kartika’s Case Turned Down by Registrar of Syariah Courts

The Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled to maintain the controversial 2008 Anti-Pornography Law, but failed to put an end to a debate that has divided the nation for years. “The postulations of the applicants have no legal base,” Mahfud MD, the chief of the Constitutional Court, said on Thursday in the 405-page ruling. The decision comes more than a year after the court began hearing three judicial review requests filed by 47 applicants ranging from representatives of youth groups and churches to housewives, women’s activists and legal aid foundations.

Indonesia's constitutional court has upheld a controversial anti-pornography law, disappointing activists and cultural groups who had challenged it.  The court said that the law's definition of pornography was clear and did not violate the constitution. The law was passed in 2008 and heavily backed by Islamic parties who helped to draft it. But it was opposed by minority groups who say it goes against Indonesia's tradition of diversity and pluralism. The anti-pornography law was passed with an overwhelming majority in the Indonesian parliament. But it has been seen by minority groups as a step towards strict Islamic law, stifling religious and artistic freedom. Update on: Indonesia: Anti-Pornography Law Raises Fears for Minorities

Some of Yemen's most influential Islamic leaders, including one the U.S. says mentored Osama bin Laden, have declared supporters of a ban on child brides to be apostates. The religious decree, issued Sunday, deeply imperils efforts to salvage legislation that would make it illegal for those under the age of 17 to marry. The practice is widespread in Yemen and has been particularly hard to discourage in part because of the country's gripping poverty — bride-prices in the hundreds of dollars are especially difficult for poor families to pass up.

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women is pleased to announce the publication of their first Policy Briefing Series on culturally-justified violence against women (CVAW). Launched on March 3rd, 2010 at their panel discussion at the 54th UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Series is a valuable resource for those working on issues of CVAW.

Muslim activists filed a lawsuit Monday against a Malaysian women's group, asking it to remove the word "Islam" from its name on the ground that it misleads people to believe it speaks for all Muslims. The suit against Sisters in Islam, one of the most well-known nongovernment groups in this Muslim-majority country, comes after it angered conservative Muslims by criticizing Islamic Shariah laws that allow the caning of women for offenses such as drinking alcohol. Update on Malaysia: Intimidation of Sisters in Islam: Silencing Alternative Viewpoints

Sisters in Islam (SIS) is shocked that the Prisons Department has caned three Muslim women for shariah offences. Given that several issues on shariah and constitutional grounds, sentencing guidelines and Malaysia’s commitments to international human rights instruments that were raised on the Kartika case remain unresolved, we question the government's motive in proceeding with the caning of Muslim women.

The issue of women driving in Saudi Arabia is again a topic of public discussion,[1] following an extraordinary incident that took place during the recent flooding in the city of Jeddah. A 15-year-old girl named Malak Al-Mutairi managed to extricate herself from a partially submerged car, and then got in the family jeep and towed other vehicles and their occupants to safety, saving her own family and eight others.[2]

Pope Benedict XVI has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to "natural law" as he confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year.

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