Dossier 14-15: Statement of Rights from an Independent Women’s Court

Publication Author: 
Independent Women’s Court
September 1996
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We, the women participating in the Arab Court of Women, held in Beirut, June 28-30, 1995, as testifiers and audience to those testimonies; we, who had the opportunity to take part in this great event, jointly assume the responsibility of what we heard of words of truth which broke the ring of silence that had long stifled our voices and sufferings of women. We commit ourselves and pledge to the world to raise our voices with unequivocal rejection of all forms of violence practiced against women in the Arab region, the third world and throughout the world in general.

We pledge to cut the strings of silence which covers such violence, to rob the sleep of this world which accepts silence and ignores violence, to fight against this and all kinds of violence as long as we live, to put a hand of solidarity in the hands of all those who help us in our fight throughout the world, especially in the third world and more particularly in the Arab world, in order to confront all those who abuse our rights within the family, at the levels of despotic Arab governments, the political reactionary trends led by the political Islam and of the new world order which nurtures that trend in our Arab region through imposing a relationship of dependence and political, economic and social oppression. We reject violence because it is an abuse of the women's rights, which are part of human rights, because it violates women's human dignity and because it is the worst of all forms of discrimination against them. It should be dealt with in the same way as all other forms of discrimination included in the international treaties and in the declaration on eliminating violence against women;

• We reject such a violence and will fight it in all fields, local and international, no matter how well it is disguised and how justified it is;

• We reject it regardless of how it is categorized political, economic, within the family, psychological, moral or sexual;

• We reject it whatever the entity carrying it out against us may be father, brother, husband, son, governor, occupation, or the new world order for the preparation of which we were absent; whether it is signed by states, religious institutions, local, regional or international bodies;

• We reject it regardless of where it occurs in the baby crib, at home, in the street, in the place of work, at the refugee camp or in prison;

• We reject it whenever it occurs during our childhood, youth years or adulthood;

• We reject it in circumstances of war or peace;

• We reject it no matter what it is called or how it is covered honor, traditions, laws, prevailing practice or national priority;

• We reject it whether it is individual or affecting groups; whether it is contained in a law or whether it occurs out of it. We reject it because it is an abuse of our rights and because we do not give up these rights. We are working and will continue to work to take control of them at all levels.

On the Political Level

It is our right and that of our peoples to live free in an independent homeland we own and build in a way that would protect human rights. It is our right to organize ourselves in an independent and free way, to work together on building a democratic, egalitarian civil society on all parts of our land. It is our right not to be oppressed, arrested or tortured for our opinions and fight for freedom and equality. It is our right not to be made, along with our children, hostages for our husbands, brothers, fathers and other men in the family, who are chased for political and other reasons.

It is our right to resist the oppression of our governments, which use us, bodies and souls, as a bargaining chip in carrying out their oppression. It is our right to resist the fundamentalist institutions for using religion to subjugate us. It is our right to hold the opinion we want and to express it with no fear or intimidation. It is our right to reject to be the fuel for wars we did not ignite, political conflicts we did not choose and policies we did not participate to define.

On the Family, Social Level

We are half the world and provide the other half. It is our right to live in it as human beings enjoying all our rights, where our body, personality and person are respected. It is our right to fully own our body, without having it impaired by circumcision under the pretext of honor and chastity as defined by a masculine society. It is our right to choose our opinions and pick up from our heritage, without being assigned to frozen molds and punished if we reject them or try to destroy them. It is our right to choose whom to marry, when and where or even not to marry at all without being disgraced by society.

It is our right to define our understanding of honor and to refuse that this honor be limited to a part of our body, which is abused by men then we pay the cost by our lives on their hands. It is our right not to be humiliated at home, in the street or at the work place. It is our right not to be beaten, insulted or humiliated.

On the Legal Level

It is our right to be fully equal before the law, to participate in writing and implementing that law. It is our right to be judges and fully qualified witnesses. It is our right to legislate against those who use violence against us. It is our right to annul crimes relating to our sex and to call crimes their real names. There is no killing for honor but there is killing with premeditation. Rape is not a sexual issue; it is a crime of violence.

It is our right to have a civilian law which treats us as equals of men. We have the same right in marriage, divorce, testimony, inheritance, in having our citizenship granted to our children and in taking full care of ourselves and our children. It is our right to be fully citizen with no pretext or justification of impairment.

These are our rights. We do not accept their impairment or abuse. Abusing them either totally or partially is a violence we will fight.

The above statement was drawn up by participants at a Women's Court against political and social violence against women. The court was organised by El-Taller (A Tunisia based coalition of independent NGO's) and other groups. This event was organised in preparation to the NGO World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Source: This document has been reproduced from a posting on Usenet newsgroup on the Internet.