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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights’

Saudi Women Fined for Gross Traffic Crimes, Such as Driving (Video)

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Saudi traffic police had a field day in Riyadh on Saturday, fining at least 16 women who broke the tradition that prohibits women from taking the wheel.

The threat of $80 fines doused plans for a massive feminist turnout following a campaign of “women’s driving is a choice” that had gained support with more than 16,000 signatures.

The women who defied the ban posted videos on social media of their brazen act, and after being caught, they had to sign a pledge “to respect the Kingdom’s laws.” Police kept the women by their vehicles until a male guardian appeared to take the wheel, but some women were taken to the police station.

Given the traditional Muslim veil that women in Saudi Arabia usually wear in public, women drivers indeed could be a public danger. Who wants to ride with someone whose face is completely covered except for two slits for the eyes?

For the time being, it is the Saudi kingdom that has limited vision because it may only be a matter of time before it caves in and accepts the ugly Western influence of a female carrying out the masculine task of driving a car.

“Despite the strong opposition, the women believe that time is on their side,” The New York Times reported. “They point to the huge numbers of Saudis who study and travel abroad and return with new perspectives on their culture. They also suggest that the kingdom’s youthful population and the tremendous rise of social media will over time make the country more open to change.”

Saudi Arabia has the privilege of being the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, but the prohibition is a custom of the kingdom and not written in law.

The issue is not to be treated frivolously or with sarcasm. Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan  in late September gave a very good reason why women should not drive.

“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” he told the Senior Council of Scholars, one of the top religious bodies in the country.

“That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees,” he said.

Agunot Activist Woman Appointed to Panel for Jewish Judges

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has appointed the first woman as one of the members of the State Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Court Judges.

Dr. Rachel Levmore, director of the Project for the Prevention of Agunot and Get-Refusal of the International Young Israel Movement and the Jewish Agency, was named to the panel based on her expertise in Talmudic and Jewish law and her social activism on behalf of “agunim,” women who cannot re-marry because their ex-husbands refused to grant them a divorce, as required by Jewish law before re-marriage.

Dr. Levmore has actively brought about the spread of the acceptance of prenuptial agreements as a successful preventative tool to the problem of the agunah.

Israel Hosts Global Conference to Promote Women’s Rights

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Hebrew University Stand With Us Campus Coordinator Lee-El Lewinsohn recently accompanied 25 students to the International Women’s Conference, which focused on women’s rights in Israel and promoting worldwide gender equality. Leading Israeli public figures, including politicians, activists, businesswomen, journalists, and religious leaders, spoke at the conference. Commenting on the conference, Lewinsohn noted, “Israel faces many challenges, and so do the women in Israel, but our strong pluralistic and democratic society has achieved many goals and is constantly in flux, changing, growing and improving.”

Participant countries of origin included Nepal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, and even the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. Shelisa Martin Clarke, a public health administrator who came from Nevis, said she learned “from the Israeli perspective” how to deal with domestic and gender based violence in her country. Sabina Deshemaru, a Nepalese student at the Hebrew University, noted, “I want to approach the Nepalese army and to see if there is a chance to replicate the idea of how Israel works with people who have post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Rilwan Raji, a Nigerian doctor, emphasized that Israel “is an inspiration” with regard to women’s rights, noting that he is consistently impressed by women serving in high level positions in the IDF, the Knesset, and Israel’s foreign service. “Basically, the most important thing is how women are integrated into the political system, for the more women are in politics, the better will be the plight of the girl child. For me, it’s unbelievable that Israel has so much to offer despite the conflict. It shows that the security situation is not an excuse for lack of development,” he said. He claimed that Nigeria frequently uses the existence of the Boko Haram Islamist terror group, which attacks schools, healthcare clinics and churches, as a pretext for lack of development.

Luchuo Engelbert Bain, a doctor from Cameroon, learned from the Stand With Us conference how to communicate pro-women’s health messages that emphasize that the “problems of women are the same the world over, even though the degree differs.” He also noted the importance of inspiring men to take an interest in promoting women’s rights. According to Bain, the information he gathered at the Stand With Us Conference will help him educate women about the dangers of HIV and the need to protect themselves against risks in Cameroon posed by arranged childhood marriages, forced marriages to deceased husbands’ brothers, and prostitution, all of which lead to the spread of HIV.

Visit United with Israel.

Rohani’s Acid Test: Can Women Enter Soccer Stadium?

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Women in Iran are pinning their hopes on Hassan Rohani to pass what would be a sweeping reform in the Islamic Republic – allowing them to enter a soccer stadium.

The issue is not minor in a country where an Iranian sports journalist told Turkey’s Hurriyet News, “In terms of freedom of expression, football stadiums are nearly as important as the Internet in Iran now.”

Rohani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad found out the hard way that allowing women to enter a soccer stadium is frowned upon by Muslim clerics. He announced in 2006 that women could go the stadium, especially when it comes to lavishing praise on the national team after a victory over an enemy, such as the United States.

Has was forced to back down after leading clerics vehemently objected to allowing men and women to come so close together in a public place.

Obama Cites Liberties, Israel in Heritage Month Declaration

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

President Obama cited the Jewish striving for freedom and the U.S.-Israel bond in his Jewish American Heritage Month declaration.

“Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts,” Obama said Tuesday in declaring May as Jewish American Heritage Month. “Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women’s rights to workers’ rights to the end of segregation.”

Among other Jewish American contributions, Obama listed “scientists and teachers, public servants and private citizens, wise leaders and loving parents.”

He said Americans could see Jewish “accomplishments in every neighborhood, and we see them abroad in our unbreakable bond with Israel that Jewish Americans helped forge.”

Congress legislated Jewish American Heritage Month in 2006 and Obama was the first president, in 2010, to mark it with a celebration.

This year there will be no White House fete because of budget cuts.

Bar Refaeli’s Vulgar Super Bowl Ad

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I don’t want to come across as a prude and less so do I want to judge. So how do I say this delicately?

For those of us who always hoped that Israel would stand for just a little bit more than some of the values of the rest of the world, GoDaddy.com’s Super Bowl ad with Bar Refaeli was a disappointment.

For many decades in the United States we have fought a rearguard action to sustain the dignity of women, especially in how they are portrayed in the media and in advertising. I dedicated an entire book to this theme entitled, Hating Women. In it I demonstrated the gradual evolution of, say, the female recording industry which had once focused primarily, as it should, on a woman’s voice and musical talent, but later came to focus, with artists like Madonna and Britney Spears, on salaciousness and sex.

This battle has been mostly lost. It is now a given that a woman who does not show a lot of leg and a lot more cleavage will probably never reach the highest echelons of musical stardom, although the careers of superstars like Adele, who does not flaunt her body and Susan Boyle, who does not fit the stereotype, still gives us some hope. Surely, Beyoncé’s amazing performance at the Super Bowl demonstrates that seductiveness is essential to female musical entertainment. One cannot separate her sexiness from the high-energy rendition which impressed millions. To attempt to criticize that would now be seen as retrograde and primitive.

And yet our culture still believes there are things that cross a line. The classic example is another Super Bowl incident, this time in 2004, when Janet Jackson had her famous wardrobe malfunction with Justin Timberlake. Showing a breast on TV was something that deeply upset most Americans because their children were watching.

Fast forward now to the GoDaddy.com commercial with Bar Refaeli. GoDaddy has been the worst offender in the exploitation and degradation of women via Super Bowl advertisements for a number of years now. Many of their ads straddle the line of soft porn which they then invite you to see a lot more of if you go online. What the connection between a woman’s body and online storage might be is something that many of us might will find mystifying.

But the Bar Refaeli commercial transcended even that. Here was a woman having  a tongue-to-tongue kiss with a man on a program that is watched by millions of children. I know my children were watching and I felt uncomfortable. It was my seven-year-old’s birthday. He was watching the Super Bowl with my four-year-old and with our other children. Every year they wait for our family’s Super Bowl party. Was this what they had to see? It’s a football game, for heaven’s sake. If you watch the uncensored version, which was available on the Internet, it’s much worse. They might say it’s just a kiss. But if it were just that GoDaddy would not have wasted millions of dollars airing it. It was meant to shock, and it achieved its intent.

Why did it have to be Israel’s supermodel in the ad?

I get it. We are all susceptible to the vagaries of celebrity, and at times we may allow ourselves to be compromised in its pursuit. This is especially true, I can imagine, when something like this probably involves a very large payday as well. That’s why I say I don’t want to judge. But surely, one’s image can also benefit from wholesomeness. As one of the world’s most beautiful women – with the exception of my wife (now can I buy that case of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, honey?) – Refaeli could have won over tens of millions of viewers, especially Moms, who would have equated her image with feminine dignity and self-esteem.

To be sure, Bar Refaeli was controversial long before the GoDaddy ad because she did not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Fair enough. There are many religious Jewish girls who don’t serve in the IDF either. But they do enlist in national service. Refaeli’s explanation, however, was something that, as a father of a young woman who is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces for two years, I found equally disappointing. She is quoted as saying, “I don’t regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That’s just the way it is, celebrities have other needs.”

The Ketubah as a Prenup

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

I was just reading an article in The Forward about a “Jewish prenuptial agreement” being upheld in the American courts.

For the first time, a state court has affirmed the constitutionality of a Modern Orthodox-sponsored prenuptial agreement meant to protect agunot — Jewish women “chained” by husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce. Read more.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have always considered the Ketubah, Jewish Marriage “contract” to be a prenup of sorts.  Actually, it’s not a contract; it’s more of a signed pledge by the husband to give financial compensation to the wife if the marriage must end.

The main purpose of the ketubah is to prevent a husband divorcing his wife against her will, which, in talmudic times, he had the right to do. The knowledge that he had to pay his wife her ketubah would serve as a check against hasty divorce.

The wife promises nothing in return.  The Chabad site adds more information:

The ketubah is a binding document which details the husband’s obligations to his wife, showing that marriage is more than a physical-spiritual union; it is a legal and moral commitment. The ketubah states the principal obligations of the groom to provide his wife with food, clothing and affection along with other contractual obligations.

If the Ketubah would be taken seriously, as an enforceable legal document then there would be fewer agunot, “chained” women awaiting Jewish divorce from their husbands.  And maybe some men would think a lot more before threatening their wives with divorce.

What’s interesting is that the Ketubah actually gives the wife the upper hand in marriage.  It lists what the husband must do and basically takes for granted that the wife will do whatever is expected.  She doesn’t sign the document.

It’s too bad that the Ketubah isn’t taken more seriously in courts, both in Israel and abroad.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/shiloh-musings/the-ketubah-as-a-prenup/2013/02/10/

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