Saudi Arabia Grapples with Women's Right to Drive Within Existing Restrictions

SAUDI ARABIA - A common Western activity such as driving has been an issue for women in Saudi Arabia for ages. Although women over thirty have been allowed to drive, this right has been curtailed by the stringent restriction to which they are forced to adhere.

Currently, "Saudi Arabian laws" limit their freedom to drive outside of a proscribed schedule which prohibits them driving after 8:00 p.m. Also, an additional restrictive and seemingly punitive issue is that women who are driving are forbidden to wear make-up while operating the vehicle. One would presumably understand the restriction against distracted drivers using cell phones and other communication devices thus taking their attention away from the road, but the wearing of make-up does not seem to fall into this category as women are allowed to wear it in all other instances.

This matter came to the attention of the world because the consul of Saudi Arabia has put on the table for discussion the possibility of removing the time constraints, and also considering the option of allowing women older than 30-years-old to operate a vehicle during restricted hours. Though, these discussion are not open to the public, it seems that this is a growing necessity for a society that is increasingly mobile and where the use of a vehicle would greatly enhance the performance of such mundane duties such as grocery shopping, picking up children from school, etc.

Although the decision to reassess the restrictions imposed on women drivers seems precipitous, in fact women have been actively campaigning for this basic right to drive for years. The consul stated that there is the necessity to create a “female traffic department" in order to bring precise control over the matter, in case a car suffers some damage while being utilized by a woman. There are also restrictions when it comes to women interacting with men while driving. Though these discussion seem to be a recognition of the need for equal rights for women in terms of driving, the additional restriction makes us wonder if this response is a ploy to seemingly comply with women's rights group while in fact devaluing the struggle in which many women defied the laws, boldly driven their cars, and consequently suffered punishment.

Additionally, the existing restriction have resulted in a culture of families hiring drivers to transport women. But, what happens when the traditional family does not have the economic resources to hire someone? Women then are directly dependent of spouses, siblings, parents and even their children in order to accomplish their daily activities, and such restriction are unduly punitive for women who are in the lower classes. Thus, the current debate is considering the possibility that under certain conditions women might drive more days of the week during the hours between 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Restrictions regarding wearing make-up and interacting with men during the driving are not up for discussion and will likely remain in place.

According to The Associated Press, "There have been small, but increasingly bold protests by women who took to their cars in open defiance....over the past year despite the restrictions. The driving ban, which is unique in the world, was imposed because the kingdom's ultraconservative Muslim clerics say "licentiousness" will spread if women drive.”

A protest occurred last October when Saudi women drove around their neighborhoods and recorded themselves on videos which they then posted on social networks such as YouTube as a means to publicize their plight and reinforce their belief in the right to protest this unjust situation. Although there isn't a written law that limits schedules or outlines formal details on restrictions imposed on women driver, these unwritten cultural restrictions have been ubiquitously enforced, and punishments have varied between jail time or other sanctions.

In 2011 forty women protested against the driving ban and as a consequence one of them was sentenced to 10 lashes; however this barbaric punishment was subsequently overturned by the king. The revocation of this sentence can be viewed as an improvement since the situation has been discussed for years over what type of judgement should be meted out for women who break the de facto "driving ban" laws, and corporal punishment of women who are considered disobedient is actively practiced in other traditional cultures.

Since the consuls' discussion are private and there has been no indication of when an announcement of their decision will be made, women who have been demanding their right to drive continue to peacefully protest by driving despite these anachronistic traditions.

Becker Sentenced to Life for Cutting off Penis

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 27 June 2014

B is for Blood, Photo by KlmLOS ANGELES, California -- In August 2011, Catherine Kieu Becker, a Vietnam-born woman also known as Que Anh Tran, brutally attacked her husband severing his penis. At that time they resided in Grove Garden, California. Today, nearly three years later, Becker has been convicted and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after seven years.

Now 50, the infamous ex-wife has supplanted Lorena Bobbitt as the new face of women who castrate their husbands. Unlike, Lorena, Catherine Kieu, had not been abused, but instead appears to have been driven to violence by jealousy.

Kieu and her then husband married in December 2009, but in May 2011 he filed for divorce, which was granted in August 2011, according to Orange County court records. Despite the fact that she and her ex-husband had no children, it seemed that Kieu was not ready to relinquish the relationship.

According to other reports, shortly before the incident, the couple argued over a friend staying with them. Apparently, her husband thought little about the incident, or at least he didn't fear for his safety because he and Kieu enjoyed a dinner together.

It was during this meal that according to prosecutors, "Kieu laced her husband's dinner with the sleep medication Ambien, and once he fell asleep, Kieu tied his legs and arms to the four corners of the bed. She waited until he awoke before pulling down his pants  and cutting off his penis with a knife."

Once again the similarities between Bobbitt and Kieu are striking, but in the case of Lorena, she drove off in her car and threw her husband's severed penis out the window. She later led the authorities to the general area where she had thrown out 'his member,' whereupon it was located and later surgically reattached.

In Kieu's case, she seemed intent on her husband never being able to perform as a man again, as she threw his severed penis into the garbage disposal, turned it on and mangled it. After this vicious assault, Kieu called 911 to say that her husband was bleeding and required attention. Upon the paramedic's arrival they saw the severity of his injuries and immediately took him to the hospital for emergency surgery.

The victim is a battered man, and if not for his physical castration people may have scoffed at his predicament. But, the abuse perpetrated against him by Kieu cannot be healed with psychotherapy. Her ex-husband, 60, according to the prosecutor's office, described the trauma in an impact statement during Friday's sentencing.

'The convicted (person) viciously deprived me of part of my life and identity," the ex-husband told the court. "Then, as is routine in cases of violence that involve something sexual, the victim must endure, at the hands of the defense, a second attack. This was a cruel and calculated violation of a person's body and mind. I now struggle with what is before me. She has torn off my identity as a man. She has caused doubt in my belief in good. She has betrayed my trust in people." Source: CNN

Kieu's defense team's strategy seemed to rely on the success of the outcome of Bobbitt's acquittal on the grounds of temporary insanity. However, despite their claim that Kieu suffered from mental health issues, including depression, it was a stretch to claim that she was a victim of the battered woman's syndrome or acted in defense of her life.

Her claims do an injustice to the many women in this country and around the world who are abused physically and mentally by their partners until they break and either harm themselves or their victimizer. Fortunately, for women's rights, the jury didn't buy into Kieu's defense and today, she was sentenced to life in accordance with the April 29th jury verdict of one felony count of torture, one felony count of aggravated mayhem, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

The Smartest Girl in all of Afghanistan

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 13:36 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

" 10327-F-BH761-090 " Photo by: Ashley N. Avecilla BALKH, Afghanistan — During Afghanistan’s university entrance exams last month, a girl named Shohreh Ghaderi scored the highest of anyone in the country.

She beat over 225,000 other test-takers. Considering Afghanistan’s history of repressing women’s education, Ghaderi’s feat is challenging the status quo of families not sending their daughters on to higher education.

The university entrance exams in Afghanistan, known as the Kankor, are the Afghan equivalent of the American SATs, but far more imperative for Afghani students. Only about thirty-percent of the students that take the Kankor will be accepted to a public institution of higher education, according to Outlook Afghanistan.

Those who do not qualify have the option of attending one of the few private universities, but most students are too poor to afford it. Shohreh Ghaderi commented on the situation of her fellow test-takers to BBC News saying “Many students who sat for the exam had no security where they live. They don’t have proper books or teachers or access to computer. They have nothing.”

Ghaderi, however, will be one of the fortunate ones that will be going on to university. On taking the exam she said to BBC News, “There were 160 multiple choice questions. I only made three mistakes. I remember I was doubtful of one question. It asked what the chemical formula was for phosphoric acid. It was a very easy question, but I don’t know if I chose the right answer.” Despite those three mistakes, she managed to earn the highest score in the country.

Because of her high score she stands out, but what makes her achievement all the more noteworthy is that she is a girl. Traditionally, Afghan girls do not go on to university, instead opting for a domestic life, but that is not the case for her family. She credits her education to her family saying, “My dad used to help me with my questions. I do not believe any of this has to do with luck. I was brought up in an academic family where everyone cares about education.”

When it comes to how she achieved the highest scores in the country she says to BBC News that there was neither a “special technique” in how she studied nor any unique talent, but it was how hard she studied that mattered. She says, “Everything is possible if you have strong will. You have to have a goal in life and believe that nothing can stop you from achieving it.”

Ghaderi credits peace and security to bettering education for other girls. She tells BBC News that violence in certain areas is why girls are not going to school saying, “Some people won’t let their daughters study because of the lack of security.” She continues to say, “If everywhere was safe then there would be no excuse for stopping their daughters from studying and it would become an outdated tradition.”

With Ghaderi’s impressive score, she will be attending Kabul University. She intends on studying medicine. When she visited a class of other girls prior to their university exams, she left them with this encouraging message, “I hope I can be an inspiration to you all and that you all will be successful in the university entrance exam and then you will become and inspiration for our community.”

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

The "Manosphere" | Feminists Shot Dead on Sight

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 03:43 p.m. DST, 29 May 2014

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ENTER THE "MANOSPHERE" at your own risk. This community of blogs and user forums are think tanks of misogyny, where expert womanizers share their secrets and angry 'alpha males' disparage the opposite sex.

The various websites within the loosely affiliated "manosphere" often operate under the guise of gender equality. In the minds of the site administrators and talking heads, so-called equality means that 'alpha males' take back what is rightfully theirs: ubiquitous sexual opportunity, decreasing political power, and American gender roles reminiscent of the 1950's.

Objective organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have classified many of these websites as hate blogs.

Interesting, the young 'alpha males' that populate the "manosphere" were not alive in the age they so long for. As an antidote to their perceived feebleness in the eyes of women, they are nostalgic for the decades and the gender roles within which their grandparents abided.

At the very least, you would think that the "manosphere" reporters would be well-versed in the history and the context of their declarations. Instead, reading through the "manosphere," one would think that these men come from an alternate reality, a science-fiction story, where men have been recently liberated from a society of domineering, authoritative, and suppressive women. Women who had historically disenfranchised them, used them as sexual objects, and restricted their self-sufficiency through calculated discrimination.

If you were unaware about these backwards breeding grounds, you are like me. Knowledge of these websites is very self-selecting; you are unlikely to frequent them if you do not share or condone the values they espouse. The readership of the "manosphere" is united in the mission to stop the feminist "agenda," many even declare that feminist ideologies are akin to terrorism.

To the world, Elliot Rodger is the gunman in the Santa Barbara massacre earlier this week, but to many websites throughout the "manosphere," Rodger was a contributing commentator. The vile dogma in his viral videos is representative of what you might read on many of the sites--women owe men sex, and men who are denied intercourse have a responsibility to remind women of their subservient place in society. Of course, not all participants of "manosphere" outfits are evil, potential killers. But it just so happens that Rodger had a reciprocal relationship to the community--he was both guided by thinkers of the "manosphere" and contributed to the hatred published therein.

The discussion of the mass-shooting in Santa Barbara and the rationale of Rodger are comparable to the study of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Following the tragedy, reports surfaces that shooters Klebold and Harris worshipped musician Marilyn Manson. The press crucified Manson, and he became all but an accessory to the 15 murders at the school. The public reaction also condemned violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto as a conspiring force in the massacre. These are important factors to consider, but certainly as a society we cannot believe that extreme music and games are causal to the slaughter and deny the role of gun laws and mental health.

In a similar vein, we can look to the "manosphere" for answers to the uncertain mindset of Rodger. Plenty of people play violent video games, listen to disturbed music, and have hateful views towards women and do not go on a killing spree. What pushed Rodger over the edge? We will never know. But we do know that with a serious review of the laws related to gun ownership [his choice of weaponry was purchased legally, just miles from the scene of the crime], and greater psychiatric support, the young victims in Santa Barbara would still be alive today.

It is noteworthy that the voices of the "manosphere" are equal-opportunity detractors. Unless you are a so-called 'alpha male,' regularly practice the aggressive pursuit of women, and claim an elevated genetic position over the opposite sex, expect to be belittled. Showing the nuances of the faction, Rodger is highly criticized throughout the social community, degraded as a 'beta male' and sometimes 'devalued' to a gay man. Please, ever-so-thoughtful men of the "manosphere," don't degrade the gay community, or anyone for that matter, during your journey to find yourself, love, and self-acceptance.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Enough Already. Where are Nigeria's Stolen Daughters?

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:30 p.m. DST, 29 May 2014

"Female faces" Photo by: DFID - UK Department For International Development

BORNO, Nigeria -- Six very long weeks ago, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in northern Nigeria and abducted over 200 girls in the night. This terrifying incident, that lead a Boko Haram leader to announce they would “sell them [the girls] in the market,” sparked a massive social media campaign with the trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Thousands of social media posts and hundreds of minutes of news coverage later, almost the entirety of the group of these young, innocent girls is still being held captive without rescue or hope.

What’s the most frustrating aspect of this? The lack of willpower and resolve from Nigerian politicians.

Nigeria, a country with a booming economy (recently surpassing South Africa), recently hosted a World Economic Forum meeting, bringing together high-profile businessmen and political figureheads from across the world to showcase Nigeria’s newfound economic success. But wait. What does economic growth matter if a country is not even willing to defend itself from terrorists and humanitarian crises?

This miscalculation essentially equates to Nigerian politicians taking home big, fat checks while they wait weeks to fulfill their duties to even just respond to this abduction. Visiting the site of the attack and speaking with families there? That took even longer for President Goodluck Jonathan to do.

What good are democratic elections if the elected officials feel no responsibility to protect their own citizens and defend those who can’t defend themselves? A key factor that people are forgetting to talk about here is that Nigeria actually has an incredibly powerful, i.e. capable, military arm, ranked 47th in the world in Global Firepower’s Power Index score. The organization uses 50 factors to determine a nation's potential conventional military strength. Nigeria’s ranking puts it ahead of many developed or developing, stable nations, including Finland, Azerbaijan, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Hungary, Kenya, Kuwait, Jordan and Lithuania.

In summary, Nigeria’s leaders are not sitting there with their hands completely tied. Yes, now that they claim to have found the location of the girls (with international help, I might add), they want to avoid firefights and risk harming the girls, which is sensible. However, why did the issue ever get this far? Nigeria has several hundred thousand personnel in its armed forces, yet they are doing an atrociously feeble job of defending the nation against Boko Haram, which according to Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, makes up a “minuscule” proportion of the population.

Why did this internal mess get this far? If Nigeria has a robust, proficient military arm, coupled with a growing economy, how is a group of terrorists still wreaking such effective havoc across the nation?

The matter truly comes down to a matter of resolve, because while Boko Haram is well organized and has been successful in carrying out suicide bombings, they are not using high-tech, profound strategies that Nigeria is helpless against. Diverting some of this newfound economic wealth to the underdeveloped portions of the country, along with military postings and increased surveillance, could cripple Boko Haram’s capabilities and weaken them to a point where abductions and weekly bombings would be impossible.

Alternatively, if President Jonathan truly felt helpless in leading this terrorist situation, he could have also asked for international help a long time ago, considering most Western countries are committed to fighting terrorism. His qualms about doing so, though, are likely influenced by the upcoming presidential election where he doesn’t want to look weak. Who’s paying the price for his political battles? These hundreds of abducted girls and their families, who are left to live under a government that sits in Abuja while a terrorist network continues to wreak havoc throughout the country.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

In Southern India Child Laborers are Given Second Chance at Childhood

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ASIA - Tens of millions of Indian children under the age of 14 are working instead of going to school. It is estimated that 12.6 million children in India are involved in hazardous work such as coal mining, firework manufacturing, and the diamond and silk industries. With the health hazards and physical danger the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said these jobs are unsuitable for anyone under 18.

In the Bangalore region of India the Bangalore Rural Educational and Development Society (BREADS) is working to remedy the staggering amount of child laborers.

BREADS is taking the next step to helping former child laborers and rescued runaways have their childhoods back, with projects such as a Child Help Line, rescue centers in railroad stations, and more than a dozen schools in the area to rehabilitate street children before they are sent to the public school system. They have also established industrial and vocational training centers, orphanages, and shelters to assist people in all walks of life.

These children have resumes longer than most adults—construction worker, servant, brick maker, garment tailor, trash collector, factory worker—the list goes on and on. Their pasts are marked with abuse, addiction, slavery, and abandonment. They are forced into working by their families or for survival after they have been orphaned or abandoned.

Susan Bissell, head of global child protection for UNICEF stated “We understand that many children work to support their families. However, when children are forced into the most dangerous forms of labor, when they then miss school, when they are at risk and their health and well-being are impaired, this is unacceptable.”

Shivu, a boy at a BREADS rehabilitation center in Davangere, was abandoned by his parents at a train station when he was 4. He was taken from the train station by a couple who forced him into domestic labor, not allowing him to go to school. His arm was tattooed with the couple’s address so he could be returned in the event he escaped. After a particularly gruesome night of physical abuse he managed to escape, and with the help of an elderly man, was brought to a BREADS center, where he is now going to school for the first time in his 13 years.

Young girls in the Bangalore area are especially in need of the protection offered by BREADS. Thousands of girls in this area alone are prone to abuse, exploitation, trafficking, child marriage, and temple prostitution, and educating girls is oftentimes given lower priority. Providing assistance to these girls not only removes them from the viscous cycle, it changes the community and helps contribute to a child labor free society in the villages in the Bangalore area.

Matt Pirrall, a humanitarian photographer currently working for BREADS said "Education is the single most important tool to combat the lies that lead to modern day slavery. I can only hope for greater awareness of their plight, to one day bring them the justice that they deserve. With the help of BREADS and the power of education, these children are now happy, healthy, and eager to learn. It is incredible to see the transformation that had taken place in their lives. "

This past year, Germany has stepped in to lend support to these children through BREADS. During German President Joachim Gauck’s visit to India, his wife, Daniela Schadt visited BOSCO Mane school in Bangalore to interact with rescued runaways and met with Railway officials and members of the rescue team. In April the German Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ambassador Peter Prugel, met with staff of BREADS to review child safety net strategies and to get informed with the harsh realities of life on the street.

BREADS is also supported by partners in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and the United States.

At the BREADS rehabilitation centers, little hands once sore from days full of housework now lovingly hold the hands of new brothers and sisters. Little feet once raw from working in the fields barefooted now race from class to class. Little bellies all too familiar with going without food are now filled with unending laughter. These children are given more than just food, shelter, and an education—they’re given safety, security, and the keys to a renewed childhood and a new life.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCElswick

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Could You Murder Her? Some Say Yes

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LOS ANGELES, CA - This post is neither for nor against the difficult choice some people face as they attempt to exercise their right to self-determination. We are, however, emphatically for human rights and against injustice.

We encourage everyone who weighs in on this issue to remember the old Native American saying, "Do not judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccassins.'

Life is not easy anywhere, and it is exponentially challenging in countries with stagnant or emerging economies. Female infanticide occurs most often in countries where females are perceived as a drain on finite economic resources, and this burden serves as justification for aborting or killing a girl.

According to Palash Ghosh in a September 2013 article titled "A Deadly Preference For Male Offspring: The Killing Of Baby Girls In India And Pakistan," there is an ancient preference for male offspring in South Asian society and other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

This preference, according to Ghosh, resulted in the horrendous murder of a one-and-a-half year old Pakistani baby girl who was drowned by her father in front of her mother because he wanted a son.

Amazingly, less than a year later, in April 2014, India's supreme court in a landmark ruling declared that "It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," as it granted rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, 2013 marked "the highest number of murders of minors in the five years it has been keeping statistics. Since the beginning of that year, 22 trans people were reported killed. Eleven of these were under the age of 18.

These include a 13-year-old trans girl strangled in Macaiba, Brazil, on June 9; a 14-year-old trans girl strangled in the city of Ibipora, Brazil, on Oct. 15; and 16-year-old trans girl murdered by a mob at a house party in St. James, Jamaica, on July 22.

Since 2008, Transgender Europe has documented 1,374 murders of trans people in 60 countries worldwide. Of these, 108 victims have been under the age of 20." (Source: Buzzfeed)

Given those circumstances, and the fact that men in general enjoy greater economic prowess, freedom to chart their own destinies, and a host of other intangible benefits; it is a wonder that any person born male would opt to live as a female.

Thus, when people learn about the beautiful transgender child pictured above and in the video below, the bias against females is tossed out, but an often less defined, but more visceral response is evoked. Unlike millions of transgender people around the world, the angelic child whose name is Jazz Jennings has the full support and love of her family, which has often been the only thing standing between her and the people who desire to physically harm her.

I Am Jazz: A Family In Transition, aired on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, and presented a transparent view into the life of Jazz and her family; thus transmuting her from the status of "the other" to that of "human." We may not understand. We may even feel from a cultural or religious standpoint that she is anathema. But, at the end of the day, not one human has a heaven or a hell to send someone to, and we would do well to remember that despite our individual struggles we are all God's creatures.