Outcry after Dhaka court bars women marriage registrars

Women activists join in a candlelight protest demanding justice for the recent rape incident in Dhaka on January 9, 2021. Bangladeshi women are also protesting a high court ruling barring them from becoming Muslim marriage registrars. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
Women activists join in a candlelight protest demanding justice for the recent rape incident in Dhaka on January 9, 2021. Bangladeshi women are also protesting a high court ruling barring them from becoming Muslim marriage registrars. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Outcry after Dhaka court bars women marriage registrars

Outcry after Dhaka court bars women marriage registrars
  • The Dhaka High Court last week rejected a petition by a woman refused employment as a Muslim marriage registrar on the grounds that she is a woman

DHAKA: Bangladeshi women are calling for a high court ruling barring them from becoming Muslim marriage registrars to be overturned, saying the verdict breaches their constitutional rights.

The Dhaka High Court, citing “certain physical conditions,” last week rejected a petition by Ayesha Siddiqua, from Dinajpur in northern Bangladesh, who was refused employment as a Muslim marriage registrar on the grounds that she is a woman.

The court, referring to menstruation, said that women in the Muslim-majority country “cannot enter a mosque during a certain time of the month,” and this “physical disqualification” means they cannot conduct religious tasks such as registering marriage.

Women politicians, lawyers and activists reacted angrily to the verdict.

“It rejects the concept of equal rights for women. I protest against the decision,” ruling Awami League MP Meher Afroz Chumky told Arab News on Tuesday.

Chumky, the party’s women’s affairs secretary, and a former minister for women’s and children’s affairs, called the court decision “humiliating.”

“Women are allowed to offer prayers in the mosque in Saudi Arabia, but in Bangladesh we rarely see this. I think it’s time to change the people’s mindset,” she said.

Salma Ali, president of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, said that “physical issues” should not be the basis for refusing women employment as marriage registrars.

“It’s very sad. The reasons mentioned in the verdict don’t justify barring women from acting as Muslim marriage registrars. If necessary, the court could seek opinions from Islamic scholars to find a reasonable way out,” she said.

Fawzia Karim Firoze, who is overseeing Siddiqua’s appeal to the Supreme Court, said that Bangladeshi women work in all sectors of society and should not be barred from job of marriage registrar.

“Our women even serve in the armed forces. So, they can’t be barred from joining as marriage registrars,” she told Arab News.

“Women have been performing as Muslim marriage registrars for many years in the UAE and Egypt also. The marriage registrar performs the registration of the marriage only and the person has nothing to do with religion. In Muslim marriage, the religious parts are taken care of by any imam.”

Mufti Mizanur Rahman, khatib of the national mosque, Baitul Mukarram, said that if other Muslim countries allow women to perform as Muslim marriage registrars, there is a chance that Bangladesh will review the decision “in the light of Islamic guidelines.”

 “The Holy Qur’an didn’t say anything regarding women working as marriage registrars,” he said.

Activists say that the ban ignores the country’s constitution.

“In our religion there is no guideline barring women from performing as Muslim marriage registrars. This type of decision is contrary to our constitutional rights,” human rights defender Khushi Kabir said.

“It seems like a gender-biased decision, and there is scope to review it after more consultation. I hope the Supreme Court will consider it in a pragmatic way,” she said.

 


New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream
Updated 10 min 29 sec ago

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream
  • The 3,000 or so migrants plan to walk thousands of kilometers through Central America
  • Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have an agreement with the US to stop north-bound migratory flows

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras: Some 3,000 people left Honduras on foot Friday in the latest migrant caravan hoping to find a welcome, and a better life, in the US under President-elect Joe Biden.
Seeking to escape poverty, unemployment, gang and drug violence and the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, the migrants plan to walk thousands of kilometers through Central America.
But they will have to overcome a rash of travel restrictions in Guatemala and Mexico long before they even make it to the American border.
The quest is likely to end in heartbreak for many, with American authorities already having warned off the group that includes people of all ages and some entire families.
“I want to work for my house and a car, to work and live a dignified life with my family,” said Melvin Fernandez, a taxi driver from the Caribbean port city of La Ceiba in Honduras, who set off on the long journey with his wife and three children, aged 10, 15 and 22.
Most of the group set off shortly after 4 a.m. (1000 GMT) from the transport terminal of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second-largest city, headed for Agua Caliente on the Guatemalan border some 260 km (162 miles) away.
The migrants walked along side roads wearing backpacks, some holding the Honduras flag, many with small children in their arms, and most with facemasks to protect against the coronavirus.
The migrants say they hope to catch lifts from passing motorists or truckers or, failing that, walk the entire way.
To enter Guatemala, the first country on their route, however, the migrants will have to show travel documents and a negative coronavirus test — requirements that not all of them meet.
“We are leaving with a broken heart, because in my case, I leave my family, my husband and my three children behind,” 36-year-old Jessenia Ramirez told AFP.
“We are going in search of a better future, a job so we can send a few cents back home. We are trusting in God to open our path, Biden is supposed to give work opportunities to those who are there (on American soil).”
The travelers are hopeful that Biden, who takes over the US presidency on Wednesday, will be more flexible than his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden has promised “a fair and humane immigration system” and pledged aid to tackle the root causes of poverty and violence that drive Central Americans to the United States.
But Mark Morgan, acting Commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection, warned the group last week not to “waste your time and money.”
The US commitment to the “rule of law and public health” is not affected by the change in administration, he said in a statement.
More than a dozen caravans, some with thousands of migrants, have set off from Honduras since October 2018.
But all have run up against thousands of US border guards and soldiers under Trump, who has characterized immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” and other criminal activity to the United States.
Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have an agreement with the United States to stop north-bound migratory flows from the south of the continent.
Honduras has mobilized 7,000 police officers to supervise the latest caravan on its journey to the Guatemalan border.
Guatemala declared seven departments in a state of “alert,” giving security forces the authority to “forcibly dissolve” any type of public groupings.
On Friday, officials said they had already returned about 100 Hondurans who began the trip from San Pedro Sula on Thursday and entered Guatemala illegally, without Covid tests. Another 600-odd migrants who arrived at the border were prevented from entering, Guatemalan police reported.
Hundreds of police and soldiers manned three border crossings to stop the caravan. Many wore gas masks and carried shields and truncheons.
On the Honduran side, in the town of El Florido, there were signs of desperation.
“We will not move until they let us cross. We will stage a hunger strike,” said Dania Hinestrosa, 23, waiting with her young daughter.
“We have no work or food. That is why I am traveling to the United States,” she said.
Mexican authorities said late Thursday that 500 immigration officers were being deployed to the Guatemalan border in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.
But the migrants are keeping the end goal in sight.
Among them, 28-year-old Eduardo Lanza said he dreamed of living in a country where people of different sexual orientations can live with dignity, “respect... and a job opportunity.”
Norma Pineda, 51, said last year’s hurricanes left her “on the street.”
“We are leaving because here is no work, no state support, we need food, clothes...” she told AFP.