Update: Arrest of Atheist Activist Zara Kay
ExMuslim and feminist activist Zara Kay, the founder of Faithless Hijabi, was arrested in Tanzania on December 28th, where she was held in police custody without a clear indication of charges for 32 hours, after which she was released on bail. She returned once more to the police station on January 6th and is currently awaiting a court hearing. The local authorities appear to be focusing on the charge of not returning her Tanzanian passport after gaining Australian citizenship, from amongst the original three charges against her which also included social media posts critical of the government and the use of a SIM card belonging to a family member. Simon Sirro, the Tanzanian police chief, informed the BBC that Zara is now only being questioned over her citizenship status. Since she obtained Australian citizenship in 2018, Zara has not used her Tanzanian passport and regardless, Tanzanian passports like hers have been made invalid for over a year. Sources on the ground believe that the charges against Zara were initiated by some members of the Khoja Shia Ithnasheri Jamaat community. Whilst first in police custody on 28 December, Zara was asked about the work of her organization and why she left Islam.
Indian Comedian Arrested on Accusations of Blasphemy
Location: Madhya Pradesh, India
According to police, a Mumbai-based comedian, Munawar Faruqui, is alleged to have "mocked Hindu gods and goddesses" during his show. The Madhya Pradesh Police arrested and booked the comedian for alleged derogatory comments about Hindu deities on Saturday, January 1, 2021, NDTV reported. Authorities responded to Eklavya Gaur's complaints, the chief of a Hindu nationalist group in India, by lodging a First Information Report (FIR). Eklavya Gaur, the son of legislator Malini Guar (Mayor of Indore), reported to NDTV: "As soon as we came to know about this program, we bought tickets for the event and, we found that he [Faruqui] was making fun of Hindu gods and goddesses and the home minister, as he had done in the past." After the show, Faruqui was reportedly roughed up by members of the Hindu nationalist group.
Nigerian State Declares War On Female Genital Mutilation
Location: Oyo, Nigeria
The Nigerian state of Oyo has declared war on the prevalent cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM is classified as procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Dr. Millicent Ogun, a state representative of the Center for Population and Reproductive Health (CPRH), made a public declaration speaking out against the practice of FGM at the Female Child Harmful Traditional Practices event, a community engagement of traditional religious leaders held in villages across Western Nigeria. Dr. Bushrat Oloso, the state president for the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), stated that "to end [FGM], we must do these three things: Educate the entire society on the aftermath, consequences, ill-health attached, disadvantages and untold challenges unknown to all. Secondly, information and advocacy projects and raising voluminous public awareness on what victims of FGM face daily in their marriages." Some young adults were trained as FGM surveillance teams and community champions to conduct door-to-door advocacy to households, with the end goal of terminating FGM.
Indian Husband of Hindu Woman Criminally Charged
Location: Uttar Pradesh, India
Last month, Priya Verma (29) of Uttar Pradesh wed a Muslim man with Hindu rituals and her parents’ blessing. The couple previously dated for two years before deciding to marry. Privately, before they wed, Priya’s husband revealed that he is not a Hindu man named Rahul, but a Muslim named Taufiq. The two discussed how Taufiq was planning to convert to Hinduism so he could be accepted by her family. Priya introduced her husband to her parents as a Hindu man named Rahul Verma, knowing that they would never approve of her marrying a Muslim. But now her husband is in jail under the Uttar Pradesh (UP) anti-conversion law, the state’s contentious “Love Jihad” law and for “fraudulently concealing his religious identity,” posing as Hindu to marry a Hindu girl. She expressed that she is desperate to reunite with her husband. “How can I get back to him?” she asked. Meanwhile, Priya’s father reportedly pretends the marriage never happened as he continues his search for a Hindu man to marry his daughter.
Iran approves bill to combat violence against women
The Iranian government has recently approved a longstanding bill that aims to protect women against domestic violence. On Sunday, January 3rd, cabinet ministers supported the draft bill, titled "Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence," which has been pending since former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration. The bill defines violence as "any behaviour inflicted on women due to sexuality, vulnerable position or type of relationship, and inflicts harm to their body, psyche, personality and dignity, or restricts or deprives them of legal rights and freedoms." The bill also details the creation of a fund by the judiciary to assist victims of violence and help incarcerated women. But Human Rights Watch said the bill "falls short of international standards" as it does not criminalize some severe forms of gender-based violence, such as marital rape and child marriage.
Irish archbishop denounces comedy sketch accusing God of rape
Irish Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has called for a local on-demand television service, RTÉ Player. to remove an "outrageous clip" broadcast during a New Year's Eve countdown show. The 23-second clip was a comedic skit that parodied cable news coverage and said: "In yet another shocking revelation this year, God became the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals. The five billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young Middle-Eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will before being sentenced to two years in prison with the last 24 months suspended." Archbishop Martin took to Twitter to express his views and stated, "to broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God and Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season" on the programme and "on the Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholic and Christians." He also expressed shock at the insensitivity of the directors and producers involved in creating the skit.
Pakistan Supreme Court Orders Reconstruction of Vandalised Hindu Temple
On Tuesday, January 5th, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the start of the reconstruction of a century-old Hindu temple that was set on fire and vandalized by a mob in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province the week before. The court said that the attack has caused “international embarrassment” to the country. The attack on the temple in Terri village by members of radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, a group associated with the hardline politician Fazal ur Rehman, drew strong condemnation from human rights activists and Hindu community leaders who represent the religious minority. The Justices questioned local officials over how this attack was allowed to have occurred despite the presence of a police outpost next to the temple. The authorities informed the court that 109 people involved in the attack have been arrested. At the same time, 92 police officials were suspended, including the superintendent and deputy superintendent of police who were on duty when the crime occured. One Justice commented that "suspension was not enough."
30-year-old Dalit man killed in India after inter-caste marriage
Location: Andhra Pradesh, India
Adam, 30, belonged to the Madiga-Dalit community, recognized as "out-castes," while Maheshwari, 24, is from the Kuruba community, recognized as a higher caste. Maheshwari says that her family disagreed with their marriage, so they left their hometown and married in Hyderabad. As they anticipated violence from her family, she says that they even sought police protection. Maheshwari told the media that despite their efforts, her family continued to threaten them. They had only been married for seven weeks when two men arrived in their neighbourhood and beat Adam to death. Maheshwari alleges that her father and uncle killed her husband, and while there are now cases booked against them, no arrests have been made in connection to this murder.
Scottish council rejects secular sex education in favour of Catholic teaching
The Western Isles of Scotland have been hit with a fresh dispute over churches' influence on public policy after councillors voted to endorse a Catholic manual on teaching sex education for use in schools. A majority of local councillors backed a motion "commending" the Roman Catholic teaching materials, which uphold a strict stance against sexual intercourse outside heterosexual marriage. The vote came after church ministers said parents were unhappy about government-created materials on sexual health, which taught children about different gender identities, sexual relationships, pornography and safe sex. Rev Hugh Stewart, a local minister who lobbied the councillors to reject the government materials, criticized the secular curriculum for suggesting that children as young as three could be taught about human genitalia. In contrast, the Catholic material said 10 was the earliest age for that. Dissenting councillors opposed the vote as "dangerous" and highlighted how parents already had the option to pull their children from class if they found the program too controversial.
Same-sex marriage legalized in Switzerland!
On December 18, 2020, the National Council of Switzerland voted 118-60 to legalize same-sex marriage and authorize transgender people to legally change their gender identity. These laws help promote equality for the LGBT+ community by imposing criminal penalties against those who display homophobic or transphobic actions toward LGBT+ people, the same punishment for demonstrating racism against others. These charges may result in a three-year jail term. With the legislation approved by parliament on Friday, trans people can finally change their gender identity by applying at civil registry offices. Switzerland will be the eighth European country to allow trans people to legally change their gender without requiring approval from a doctor or a court. This process is known as “Self-ID,” according to a transgender advocacy group in Europe.