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Women in the Frontline

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It threatens the lives of more young women than cancer.. It affects one of three women worldwide It leaves women mentally scarred for life. It is violence against women and girls. According to the UN this brutality is on the rise. Our series comes from the frontline of the hidden war of women and girls. The field of conflict is just as likely to be the home as the brothel. This time in Women on the frontline, we are in Mauritania, West Africa, where campaigners and lawyers are challenging a law under which a woman actually risks jail for daring to accuse someone of raping her. In Mauritania, West Africa, a woman who wants a man to be brought to justice for rape runs a high risk of imprisonment for making the accusation. This is 18 year-old Badia, not her real name. According to her lawyer, Badia claims she was raped and then became pregnant. Badia has ben trialed, convicted and is in prison for the offenses of “zina”, sex out of marriage and infanticide, but Badia claims her baby was still-born. She now risks life imprisonment. In this Islamic state, the country's law, largely based on Sharia's doctrine, insists that if sex results in a pregnancy it cannot have been rape. Women on the frontline filmed in Mauritania, to follow up a United Nations report which suggested that hard line Sharia law had been relaxed in the country, specially in its treatment of women. We soon found that this was not all together the case. We discovered instances which appeared to be in direct contravention to the UN universal real rights of women, something that Mauritanian government signed up to 10 years ago. This time in Women on the frontline we explore the question of whether secular human rights can coexist with orthodox interpretation of Islam based on Sharia law. Fifty years ago, the capital of Mauritania, Nouakchott was a tiny fishing village. It is now home to 600,000 people. Mauritania is an intensely conservative country undergoing rapid change getting Islamic traditions to coexist with the legal code that complies with internationally agreed human rights norm, is proving to be a struggle. Fatimata is herself a sign of that change . She is Mauritanian's first female lawyer. We found the laws concerning women and sexual offences in Mauritania are still in view with the harshest and strictest Sharia laws . Ten years ago Mauritania ratified Shiro, the convenction on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Speaking at a conference the Minister for women's affairs, confirmed Mauritania's commitment. However we were to find that when it comes to sexual abuse the legal system, despite the ratification of Shido, still offers women little protection. So we asked the spokesperson for the Ministry of women if they were now satisfied that te Mauritanian penal code protected women. After visiting Mauritania in 2003, the UN produced a report stating but on our arrival in Mauritania we quickly found that this was not the case. To talk to you frankly, as a UN member stated today, we stepped back a little bit, today we are redoing our homework again. Madame Camera is the governess of the women's prison here in Nouakchott. Zeinabou Mousa was a midwife and learnt first hand from the women who came to see her ust how many had been sexually abused. In 2001 Zeinabou set up the first country's rape crisis centre. Zeinabou and caseworker Mirriam took us under the cover of night to a district in Nouakchott to aid Aisha and her mother . Aisha is a 24 year-old woman who says she was raped. Aisha, veiled and with an assumed name to protect her identity alleged she was attacked by three young men and raped by one of them. Aisha maintains that her violator was, in fact, her suitor. Her mother claims that he raped her to dishonour her. So if she pursues the case and cannot prove she was raped. She could face inmprisonment. Because there is now no physical evidence to back Aisha's allegation, Zeinabou worries that Aisha herself may be charged with immorality or Zina. She arranges for Aisha to see a lawyer at the rape crisis centre. Lawyer Bilal puts some searching questions to Aisha about her relationship. The former public prosecutor confirmed to us that Aisha would almost certainly be accused of Zina. According to Iman Salak, Aisha's actions lead him to believe she is also guilty of threatening Islamic morality. Zeinabou and Lawyer Bilal decide that for Aisha to press charges would be too risky, so she has been dis-encouraged, as they termed it in pursuing the rape allegation. Every night police patrol the streets checking Identity papers, under article 306 of the penal code a threat to Islamic morality, you can be arrested for anything contravening this law. In Nouakchott's women prison, lawyer Fatimata spoke to Senegalese women who were arrested under article 306. They claim they were simply working as wash women and selling incense in a strangers' house when the police raided. Then prison staff arrives to take the four women to court for their trial. The women's lawyer has just found out the charges against them the lawyer goes back into court to argue the case with the women. Our crew was not allowed into the court. Back at the women's prison we catch up with the story of 18-year-old Badia. Convited of Zina and infanticide, she faces life imprisonment and is awaiting her sentence. Under Mauritanian law, pregnancy is regarded as proof of having freely consented sex. Madame Camera tries to cope the story for Badia Article 307 of the Penal Code states that pregnancy is only possible though consensual sex, therefore by definitition it must be impossible to get pregnant through rape. Thus, because Badia was pregnant her rape allegation is unadmissible under Mauritanian law. Meanwhile back at the court house the veredict on the Senegalese women has returned Two of the Senegalese women were found guilty in this Court of Law of prostitution and running a brothel and were driven back to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence. The other two women were charged under the "catch-all" aticle 306 and to being repatriated to Senegal. As well as the confussion that surrounds the laws of Zina and Islamic morality, Mauritanian law also fails to define rape, leaving it wide open to interpretation. With the laws as they stand, without access to forensic evidence, and a woman's word against the man's the law is loaded, says Fatimata. A spokesperson for the Women's Ministry says that the Government is going to change the Code to bring it into line with the UN convention. Though the Mauritanian Constitution guarantees equality in public office, ten years after Zido was ratified there are still no women magistrates, judges, public prosecutors or police commisioners. Although there have been some inroads into sensitizing officials Zeinabou says that a lot more work has to be done with the judiciary and law forces. Zeinabou believes that in principle Sharia law contains all the human rights women need, but she says: it's all down to interpretation. Sharia law was written to protect both sexes equally says Iman Tah Today Mauritania faces a more exteme version of the challenges that other Islamic countries have had to face. How to reconcile custom with international norms on women's rights

Video Details

Duration: 21 minutes and 14 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Views: 225
Posted by: lolaceituno on Mar 4, 2013

It describes the situation of women in some parts of the world.

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