Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist, activist, founder of ‘Secularism is a Women’s Issue,’ and founder and former International Coordinator of ‘Women Living Under Muslim Laws.’ Here we talk about Noura Hussein Hammad.
Hammad has been sentenced to death and has less than two weeks to appeal the case. The hashtag: #JusticeForNoura. There is a petition. Sodfa Daaji is the person to email. Daaji’s email if you would like to sign the petition, and please provide first and last name and country, then please send an email to the following contact: [email protected].
The urgent case of Noura Hussein Hammad comes from the potential for the death penalty for a stabbing followed by death of a husband who raped her. She murdered in self-defense after a forced child marriage. Then she went to a religious court and was charged with the death penalty for the murder.
She murdered the husband and got the death penalty. When I asked Marieme Helie Lucas about it, she said, “As you know, Scott, in many – but not all – instances women in predominantly Muslim contexts are never considered as coming to adult age; and they are considered, in the law, as forever legal minors – it took a long time everywhere (including in the West, of course) to grant women legal equal rights.”
As with the case of Hammad, she was given a marriage with matrimonial tutors or wali. Often, it will be the father or the guardian of the family. However, and even more interesting, the wali can be the youngest son.
Helie Lucas explained, “It is important to note that many so-called Muslim countries do not hold these conservative views, do not try to hide patriarchal ideology under the guise of religion, and that their national laws grant women citizens a lot more rights, including the right to sign a contract (marriage or commercial) – and in some countries equal rights in marriage.”
There has been an international trend, though. There has been a political alliance between the conservatives to the far right. These amount to, in too many cases, antidemocratic forces. These tend to want to or actively work to curtail women’s rights in legal and other ways.
Girls and young women do no have the protection of the law in too many cases, of which Hammad is one. There is a religiously sanctioned patriarchy in many places around the world. Helie Lucas argues everywhere, especially in the cases where the women do not have protection of the law without the protection of the father of the guardian.
“So-called honor crimes exist over all the continents (last year, one woman died under the blows of her male partner every three days in France) – even when the law criminalizes such crimes,” Helie Lucas stated, “Hence the importance of pushing for changes concomitantly – at the same time: at the level of changing laws, of course, but also at the level of changing society, where there is a crucial need for support for women’s rights, and for human rights work in general. Right now, funding for women’s organizations has drastically fallen, everywhere.”
That means, to my mind, the need to increase the funding, in a robust fashion, for women’s rights organizations around the world in order to halt and even reverse, if not slow down, the efforts of the antidemocratic and anti-women’s rights organizations. Women have been left alone.
A sense of aloneness to deal with their issues by themselves. The organization and the women they support can be left bereft and on their own, unfortunately. Ordinary women may not even know about the resources available to them, for their rights to be realized and lives improved.
Helie Lucas talk about Hammad’s case, saying, “From age 15, Noura has steadily refused a forced marriage for four years before taking arms against the husband imposed on her against her expressed will, and she only resorted to self-defense after having suffered a first public rape in the name of marital rights and being threatened with a second one.”
Helie Lucas views Hammad or Noura as a hero who needs support from around the world. The family, the community, the society, and the religion can be used to restrict women, to say that they are less than others.
Progressive men and women who affirm the UN Charter and universal human rights risk liberty and lives at times for the rights and livelihood of others. “These voices are rarely heard outside the national context and they need to be heard, in order to confront ideological simplifications of ‘they’ (barbaric ones) and ‘us’ (civilized ones) that still prevail,” Helie Lucas said.
We need to raise those voices, save those women and girls at risk, and work to destigmatize and dehumanize Africans and others as backward or barbaric and having the wrong, violent religion.
Helie Lucas argues, “It will also help progressive westerners to overcome their ‘white guilt’. We need them now: they should not avoid supporting Noura for fear of being labeled ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘racist’. Support the existing local women’s rights and human rights work and the young courageous Noura.”
The hashtag: #JusticeForNoura. There is a petition. Sodfa Daaji’s is the person to email. Daaji’s email if you would like to sign the petition, and please provide first and last name and country, then please send an email to the following contact: [email protected].
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