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Statement by Pax Europa at Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting November 2009

Posted by paulipoldie on November 8, 2009

Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting:

Gender equality, with a special focus on combating violence against women

5 November 2009–6 November 2009, Vienna

Buergerbewegung Pax Europa

In cooperation with and endorsed by

International Civil Liberties Alliance, Mission Europa, Wiener Akademikerbund

“Gender Equality and The Threat From Religious Law”


“The peace and welfare of the world require maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields.” United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/180 of 18 December 1979


OSCE has recognized that comprehensive security in its participating states depends on “The full and equal exercise by women of their human rights [as being] essential to achiev[ing] a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic OSCE area.” In many participating gender equality is indeed a fact, even if only by law. However, much more needs to be done.


For many women, violence is a part of their daily lives. Violence can manifest itself in many forms, but it is domestic violence against women that calls for elimination. The OSCE and its Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality (2004) can actively contribute to the elimination of domestic violence. Since gender quality contributes to comprehensive security, the participating states are called upon to ensure that women and men are granted equal status before the law. Unfortunately, there are more and more cases in the OSCE in which religious law is taken into consideration by both the state and the religious groups and accepted as equal to secular law. This is especially harmful for women as they are particularly discriminated against by these religious laws, practices, and courts. Permitting sharia courts to operate, like we see it happening in the United Kingdom, are by definition a violation of the principle of gender equality, due to the literalist scripture interpretation employed by these religious courts.


One case in point are the religious sharia courts in the United Kingdom, which have been sanctioned by the government. Eighty-four courts are currently operating, with more being planned. And it is in these courts that women are not treated as being equal before the law. The cases are tried according to the sharia, and not secular law, with the rulings endorsed by the British government.


The following are selected cases from the OSCE area:

“Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.

The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.

In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment.

In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.

Siddiqi said that in the domestic violence cases, the advantage was that marriages were saved and couples given a second chance.”



Four out of 10 women in Turkey are beaten by their husbands, according to the recent study entitled “Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey,” which has collected the first official statistics on this topic in Turkey. Even more disturbing, the study reveals that a significant number of abused women, almost 90 percent, do not seek help from any organization.


A woman in a studio audience stands up and, with the spotlight highlighting her covered head, announces to the crowd that her husband abuses her but that she doesn’t know how to react and still be a good Muslim. The host of this popular Turkish TV show, “Islam in Our Life,” Professor Faruk Beser, is — from his trimmed mustache to his tailored suit — the image of a modern, successful Turkish man. But as he approaches the woman, his answer is far from progressive. Looking her in the eye, Beser urges the woman to “carry this pain within you and keep living with your husband,” prescribing constant prayer over divorce, and reminding the woman of the rewards she will receive in heaven for her suffering.



Third of Turkish women report abuse: A total of 34 percent of married women participating in a survey said they were victims of domestic violence while 88.6 percent of married male respondents said they had never engaged in physical violence with their spouse.



The European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR, ruled Turkey had denied a citizen her “right to life” by failing to prevent her murder by her son-in-law and ordered it to pay damages. It was the first time the court ruled against a state for failing to protect a citizen against domestic violence, Turkish broadcasters reported. Turkey was also found to have violated the convention on human rights which prohibits torture, inhumane treatment and discrimination in Opuz vs. Turkey. It was ordered to pay 36,500 euros ($50,670) to the applicant, whose ex-husband killed her mother, according to a ruling on the ECHR’s website. “The general and discriminatory judicial passivity in Turkey created a climate that was conducive to domestic violence,” the court said in the statement. As many as half of Turkish women face violence in the home, Amnesty International has said, and dozens of women are killed in so-called “honor killings” each year.



In light of these and so many other cases of violence against women, and in acknowledging that it is the responsibility of the participating states to promote equality between women and men, Pax Europa and its allied organizations International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA), Mission Europa and Wiener Akademikerbund submit the following recommendations:


  • Participating States must point out to all religious groups that men and women enjoy quality before the law. In addition, participating states should punish violations according to the law.


  • Participating states should particularly focus on the following:
  1. Inheritance laws must be enforced equally for men and women.
  2. Testimony from a woman must be considered equal to that of a man.
  3. Corporal punishments inflicted from men on women must be strictly prohibited and, if prohibited by law, the law must be enforced and perpetrator be brought to justice.
  • The practice of polygamy must be punished under the law.
  • In order to make gender equality a reality, it is necessary that participating states establish the basic conditions for a minimum of economic security.


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