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My Take on It: When will all societies be rid of the anti-women & girls’ syndrome?

John Magufuli
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli under fire on pregnant schoolgirls ban

When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” When they heard this, they began to go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there. John 8:7-9

 

This week, two blaring news reports were difficult to pass over without reading them, although of course the eye is always looking to see what else has transpired in the house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Renee Rabinowitz welcomed the ruling against El Al. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/New York Times/Redux/eyevine

The first is the story of 82-year-old Holocaust survivor and a former lawyer, Renee Rabinowitz who gained space in the spotlight after an ultra-orthodox Jewish man that was seated next to her, requested that she be removed from sitting next to him. It appears that ultra-orthodox men who refuse to take their seats next to women, can demand changes in the seating on Israeli airline flights. In 2015, Rabinowitz was flying back from Newark to Tel Aviv when she met this fate.

 

A similar account is reported of a flight in February, when 10 ultra-orthodox passengers stood in the aisles and refused to take their seats, causing a delay on an EasyJet flight to the UK, before female passengers agreed to move so the flight could leave.

 

Rabinowitz, sued the company, in the process becoming a media celebrity. El Al lost the case in asking her to move to accommodate the ultra-orthodox man that had refused to sit next to her, on religious. “It’s the Torah,” she was told by airline staff.

 

On the heels of this report, is the second story that beats one to a pulp. Tanzania’s President John Magufuli made atrociously biased and unbecoming comments about girls who get pregnant while they are in school. And when human rights organizations asked him to apologize, the unrepentant President then threw more insults by teasing young mothers that after calculating some few mathematics, the girls would ask the teacher in the classroom “Let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby.”

 

Last week, he shocked the world by touting pre-Beijing rhetoric that school girls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school.

 

BBC reported that Magufuli was speaking at a public rally in Chilinze town west of the main city Dar es Salaam. In his presidential order, he believes young mothers would be distracted if they were allowed back in school. The Tanzanian President then warned school girls that after they get pregnant, they were alone.

 

The two articles are shocking and go to the core of how many laws and policies are still target women and girls in discriminatory ways, marginalizing them further. They cause society to regard women a step or two below their male counterparts.

 

In the airline versus Rabinowitz saga, it is alarming that confronted with a seat next to a woman, the one offended and who does not want to seat next to a woman, has the “power” to request the offender (only because she is a woman) to move. The audacity in this is much too much.

 

In the article, the airline staff were at pains to explain to the 82-year old woman that it’s in the Torah. With the religious history scholarship in my head and heart, if it is impurities the orthodox is concerned about, the scriptures mentioned a few ways in which we become bodily impure. The irony in the bravado that the orthodox (this is not an attack on any religion), is that they only or partially consider the taboos listed by Moses, which he highlighted in the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The men who fear being near or touching a woman, because she may be going through her time of impurity, are only scratching the surface of Moses’ teachings. There are other impurities that are mentioned. What if all women also came up and declared they do not want to sit next to a man because he may have had a “knowing” incident with a woman? It is not visible if all the men sitting in an airplane are pure or not.

Furthermore, Rabinowitz is in her 80’s and past that stage of “woman in impure state.”

It is pleasing to take note that the Israeli court has the wisdom to declare that Israeli airlines cannot make women move from their seats on religious reasons. The airline El Al was ordered to pay Rabinowitz £1,450 in damages. Additionally, the court ruling gave El Al 45 days to change its policies. The airline is also requested to inform its passengers of the change.

 

Jetting into Tanzania, we would like in the similar fashion as Mr. Khizr Khan and ask that President Magafuli reads the Beijing declaration and Platform for Action. It’s a 1995 United Nations global document. Tanzania sent a delegation to the 1995 UN Beijing Women’s Conference, and was part of this momentous occasion. At that global women’s, one of the statements that came out of it was that “women’s rights are human rights.” They include girl’s rights.

 

Mr. President your statements are not in tune with the office you hold. The girls you tell they are alone, are your children; they did not get pregnant alone or by swimming in a river. There was a man or boy involved. The girls should not be alone. We expect you as leader of the Tanzania nation, to rally behind the girls, as you would your own daughters; and we expect you to support the girls morally and spiritually.

 

It takes two to tango. So, while the girl is left with the fruits of something that was done, there is someone somewhere, who should be cornered by your office. The men you say should go to jail for 30 years, Sir, we know this will never happen, because your courts are still male-dominated.

 

We ask that from your high office, you protect and preserve the human rights and dignity of all girls. And that you counsel boys and men, so that they do not go and indiscriminately impregnate our girls.

 

Women’s and girl’s rights are human rights; human rights are women’s and girl’s rights!

Janet Zeenat Karim

 

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