On October 4, 2002, Oprah Winfrey did a program entitled Can We Save Amina Lawal's Life? about a young Nigerian woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning. That program inspired me to create this web page to make others aware of Amina Lawal's plight, and the plight of other women like her around the world.

Amina Lawal's story

Women are still treated inhumanely in may countries all over the world, including, but not limited to, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Rowanda, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Yemen, Bosnia, India, and Bangladesh. In some countries an estimated 80% to 90% of women have suffered extreme abuse at some time in their life such as being severely beaten, strangled, raped, flogged, burned by acid, or have had their eyes gouged out, ears cut off, or some other disfigurement. Usually the abuser is the woman's husband, father, brother, or other family member, and for the most part the women accept this as normal behavior. One Bosnian woman reportedly told a human aid worker that she considered herself lucky that she had a good husband who only beat her occasionally.

Girls in these countries grow up seeing their mothers abused at the hands of their father, and this goes on all over their community. When they are given in marriage (many times at 12 to 14 years old, as soon as they are able to bear children) they just accept the fact that their husbands abuse them. Girls may receive sympathy from their female relatives when they end up bruised, burned, or bleeding, but this is just considered part of life. The poor rural environment in these countries perpetuates this cycle. They have the lowest literacy rates and the lowest percentage of girls attending primary school in the world. It also follows that they have very little contact with the outside world through the telephones, televisions, computers, etc. that richer countries take for granted.

Here are just a few disturbing facts about the treatment of women in some countries:

Women are subjected to the barbaric tradition of female genital mutilation in over 30 countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of Asia.

Women who commit adultery can legally be killed by their husbands in Jordan, Morocco and Syria.

In Pakistan, women are imprisoned for engaging in sex with someone other than their husband even if they were raped. In fact, 75% of the women who are in jail there are there because they were raped. The rapist, on the other hand, goes free unless four male witnesses come forward who saw the actual act of penetration (which, as you can imagine, never happens).

In Bangladesh, an estimated three to five women are assaulted in acid attacks each week, and the incidents are becoming more numerous each month. Here are some statements on the unimaginable horror of acid attacks from Oprah.Com:

Acid attacks are becoming more common in countries like Bangladesh and India. If a man feels snubbed in any way by a woman or young girl, he seeks revenge by throwing acid on her face and body. The acid melts through flesh and bone, leaving the victim disfigured. Zainab Saldi, activist and founder of Women for Women International, says the intention of the acid attacks is to disfigure the woman's looks, so that no other man will want her. The woman's family may suffer as well, because an unmarried daughter is an economic burden. At its heart, the attack is an assault on the woman's father, damaging his "property." The suitor makes the marriage proposal to the father, but takes revenge for a rejection on the innocent girl. For information on becoming a host family to victims of acid attacks and other crimes, contact Healing the Children Florida at www.htcfl.org.

Women For Women International

733 15th Street, NW, Suite 340, Washington, DC 20005

Women For Women International is an organization that connects women in the United States to women in poverty-stricken countries. If you have $25 a month to spare, you can sponsor a woman in another country. The money will go to help the woman learn how to read and write, increase her awareness of human rights, and give her self-esteem. You can correspond with the woman you are sponsoring to hear about the results of your sponsorship.

Your $25 a month can make sure a woman can buy nutritious food for her children, learn to read, and educate herself, her children, and her community.

 

Fazaldad Human Rights Institute

The goal of The Fazaldad Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan is to promote mass awareness of human rights. Through seminars and courses, The Fazaldad Institute educates teachers and religious leaders on the importance and protection of human rights, and they pass these lessons on to the Pakistani people.

In Pakistan, the majority of people live in poverty. The literacy rate in Pakistan is low even for men, but is virtually non-existent for women. With lack of health care or clean drinking water, over a thousand pregnant women die a week--one every ten minutes. One out of every ten babies born is dead before the age of one. An estimated ten thousand Pakistani girls and women are raped or burned every year. These cases are seldom even reported because the victims are unaware of their rights. Over a thousand are the victims of "honor killings" every year. If a girl brings "shame" to her family, for instance, by running away from an arranged marriage, they are put to death at the hands of their own family members. "Honor killings" occur all over the Middle East, and the law protects those who kill in the name of family honor. However, like the Salem witch-hunts, a rumor is enough to justify the execution, and other family members are afraid to defend the victim for fear of bringing "shame" on the family themselves.

. Fazaldad Wahla (1962 - 1999)

The Fazaldad Institute was named after Dr. Fazaldad Wahla, who gave his life protecting a young Pakistani woman from an "honor killing" at the hands of her family. Dr. Whala's father, Abdul Rehman Wahla, held a high political office in Pakistan, and Dr. Wahla was educated in the United States. After his father died in 1988, the people elected Dr. Wahla to his father's office. He also opened his own orthodontics practice in Islamabad. In 1993 he married Uzma Sarfraz-Khan, who also grew up abroad.

In 1999 a family asked his help in finding their daughter who had run away to elope. Dr. Wahla knew that the girl's actions would be considered disgraceful to her family name and that once returned to her family, she could be killed in the name of family honor. Dr. Wahla agreed to return the girl to her family only if they promised her life would be spared. When the girl was located, she was brought back to Dr. Wahla's home. Four male members of the girl's family came to Dr. Wahla's house with axes intent on slaughtering the girl in an "honor killing." As his wife, Uzma, watched, the unarmed Dr. Wahla confronted the family members and intervened peacefully on the girl's behalf. The men were angry that Dr. Wahla was trying to prevent them from restoring their family's honor and the girl's youngest brother swung his axe at Dr. Wahla and hit him in the neck. The girl's family then fled the home. Dr. Wahla bled to death on the way to the hospital, which was 50 minutes away.

According to Uzma Sarfraz-Khan, many of Dr. Wahla's Pakistani friends and colleagues still can't comprehend why a man of his class would have taken such a risk for the sake of peasant girl. Hopefully The Fazaldad Institute's compassionate message of human rights awareness will help them and others one day understand.

Save Amina Lawal

Links:

Acid Attacks On Women (What You Need to Know About: Women's Issues, 2002)

Honor Killings (What You Need to Know About: Womens Issues, 2002)

Honor Killings In Palestine (Jerusalem Times, 1998)

Jordanian Parliament Supports Impunity For Honor Killings (Human Rights Watch, 2000)

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