Convention On Elimination Of All Forms
Of Discrimination Against Women.
By Guild of Service & Iran culture house
Submitted to GriefandRenewal.Com by the Guild of Service 7-20-2006
On 15th July 2006, a conference was hosted by the Iran Culture House in collaboration with Guild of Service to celebrate Iran’s women’s day in India on the auspicious occasion of the birthday of Hazrat Fatima Zahra, daughter of Prophet Mohammed.
The conference which was scheduled to start at 10.30am, started with a lot of enthusiasm after an initial delay of 20 minutes. Everybody was given pamphlets on a study of the essence and crux of the convention and its elements, which are at odds with natural and cultural values of different societies. The guest list included eminent personalities like Sayeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, Govt. of India, Dr. Girija Vyas, chairperson NCW, Dr. Syed Kalb-e-Sadiq, Vice President, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, members from the Iran Embassy and many others.
The conference started with an introduction about Fatima Zahara and why she is considered an exemplary personality and a symbol of piety for Muslim women. A gist of her life was told about how she stood up for the poor and exploited was also described.
A welcome address was then given by Mr. M.H. Mozaffari, director of the Iran Culture House. He spoke about Human Rights and its introduction in the United Nations in 1948 and how they have failed miserably due to their negligence. He criticized the ways of UN and stated that the budget which is supposed to be used on Human Rights was wasted on printing and publishing of reports, which anyway was never on time. He emphasized both on the rights and responsibilities of the UN Human Rights System. He also spoke about the French Human Rights Declaration, which emphasizes both on rights and responsibilities as compared to the US Human Rights Declaration that focuses on Rights but does not stress on Responsibilities.
Dr. V.Mohini Giri, Chairperson of the Guild Of Service was the next speaker. She asked everybody to observe a minute’s silence for all those who had lost their lives in the 11/7 Mumbai bomb blast and those who had been widowed by this incident. She highlighted the need for a new mechanism to facilitate and accelerate implementation of the commitment made by governments to eliminate these discriminatory laws by 2006. She also informed us about the Women’s Movement which has called up on the CSW to create a Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women. Such an action would ensure that women have the same mechanisms available for the promotion and protection of their Human Rights. She spoke about the United Nations and about the discriminatory laws. She also drew our attention to the fact that in the last sixty years since the UN was founded, no women had ever been elected to serve as Secretary General. She also emphasized the fact that there is unequal access of women at decision-making levels both in India as well as in the world. Women occupied only 37.1% of the professional and higher positions and only 16.2% of the Under Secretary General were women.
The next speaker was the Chief Guest Dr. Syed Kalb-e-Sadiq, Vice President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board. He emphasized the fact that women are not weak, not even physically and gave us a few examples. He said that no religion promotes discrimination of women and that no one can discriminate if she stands up for her rights. He spoke extensively about the status of women in Islam, about the Islamic literature. He gave us an insight about the Islamic culture and also criticized its drawbacks and how people had misinterpreted the Quran to suit their requirements.
The next in line was Dr. Syeeda Hameed, member of the Planning Commission of India. She told us about the status of women in Islam now and in the pre-Islamic period. She spoke about Hazrat Fatima; Hazrat is considered a jewel of simplicity and humanity. She is an idol for all Muslim women. She was always with the poor and the destitute. Dr. Hameed then questioned the audience about the existence of CEDAW and to what extent has it actually been implemented. She spoke about the 3 principles of CEDAW, that is, Equality, Non-discrimination and State Obligation. CEDAW applies not only in public but also in private spheres. CEDAW defines discrimination but not violence against women. She spoke about how rules are made but are only affective if the government of countries properly implements it.
The members of the Iran Culture House then distributed a blue colored book, to everybody present, on The Life Of Hazrat Fatima Zahra. Handouts of Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities in the Islamic Republic Of Iran were also given.
The next speaker was Dr. Shugra Mehdi who spoke about providing education to women to change the state of affairs. She said that everything was interlinked because if children are asked to come to school they would refuse because filling their stomach’s would be their first priority. She also spoke about the Imrana case as well as the Gudiya’s case.
Mr. Colin Gonsalves was the next speaker in line to give his views. He is a lawyer in the Supreme Court and he gave us a lot of information about the Indian Judicial System and how it functions in reality. He blamed the judiciary for not being able to implement the laws responsible for the discrimination of women in society. He mentioned three cases namely the Medha Kotla Case (a social activist who was raped), the Nazma Biwi Case (fighting for her rights to stay with her husband) and the Shabnam Case (where she was not allowed to adopt). He also mentioned the February Revolution in Nepal after which people became secular. He also mentioned the state of affairs in India where men still politically, economically and socially dominate women.
The house was then thrown open to the audience where students from Jamia and JNU, asked a lot of questions relating to discriminations meted out to women in various spheres.
After the Question and Answer round the session was then adjourned for lunch which was hosted by the Iran Culture House from 1.15pm to 2.00pm.
The afternoon session started at 2.15pm with Ms. Sona Khan giving us an insight about the Indian Constitution. She spoke of the grand Indian laws and about their lack of implementation. Women’s development post independence has been very slow. It is only in the last decade that we see a representation being given to women. She spoke about the Panchayati Raj Institution and the reservation of seats to women.
Mr. Dhar Chakrawarty, Secretary Human Resource Development was the next panelist to give his view on CEDAW and the government-National Policy On The Empowerment Of Women. He spoke about CEDAW and the Reproductive Rights of Women. He spoke about Personal laws, Compulsory Registration Of Marriage, Compulsory Arbitration of International Court of Justice. He also spoke about the Fundamental Rights.
Ms. Budaqi spoke next but we could not understand anything as she spoke in a different language. She was asked to translate her speech and mail us so that we could contact her if we had any queries.
Ms. Zareena Bhatty was the second last speaker to speak for the Rights of Women. She told us about the hard realities of a women’s life. She told us that there is a wide gap between reality and convention. She further stated that the government should not interfere with the cultural practices, as it is a secular democracy. She also spoke in detail about the institution of marriage and about the Special Marriage Act pertaining to the triple talak, uniform civil code etc.
Ms. Sona Khan then concluded the session at 5.00 p.m telling us about CEDAW and its practical implementation. She also gave us an insight about Islam and how people have misinterpreted it. She told us more about the Adoption Rights by Muslims and a little more about the Special Marriage Act. The house was again open to questions but not many questions were asked because the strength of the people attending the symposium had almost become half after lunch.
This Symposium on CEDAW definitely gave people a platform to put forward their views and spread awareness about women’s issues. The presence of the Media not only gave it a national outlook but also enhanced it. It was indeed a well-organized symposium and the credit should definitely go to the Iran Culture House as well as Guild of Service who worked hard to make it a success.
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