Malala Yousafzai receives support from activists in Pakistan and Middle East | Avaaz

Malala Yousafzai receives support from activists in Pakistan and Middle East | Avaaz
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People power

Muslims stand with Malala

by Avaaz Team - posted 16 October 2012 12:31
Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban for supporting girls' education, is now recovering at a hospital in the UK. As she has fought for her life, citizens across the Muslim world have come together to denounce the fanatics who did this despicable thing, and who claim to act on behalf of the Muslim religion.
Support Malala's bravery and drown out the hate by sharing these inspiring images with everyone you know:


Roy Speckhardt: Religious Freedom on the Brink

Roy Speckhardt: Religious Freedom on the Brink
\editorial in HuffPost by Roy Speckhardt, CEO of the American Humanist Association

"....But unfortunately, violence in the Middle East and elsewhere continues the long-running tendency to link blood and blasphemy. We haven't outgrown the outdated attitudes from ancient civilizations where people like Anaxagoras were condemned to death for denying or questioning the existence of gods and a law was adopted that denounced " those who do not believe in the divine beings or who teach doctrines about things in the sky."
It seems as though many in the world are far more eager to use religion as a tool for consolidating power than are interested in protecting religious freedom and free speech. Countries such as Pakistan, Greece, and Egypt are imprisoning those who dare to speak their mind about religion and belief in general. This undemocratic crackdown on speech is worrying not only because it threatens the concept of religious freedom, but because real human beings around the world are suffering from the effects of this renewed tyrannical campaign that goes on where the attempts to impose blasphemy laws at the UN left off in 2011...

he idea that every human being is free to think and express their beliefs without fear of violence or unjust imprisonment is being threatened by governments that are more concerned about protecting religious beliefs than human rights.
Should we place the right to speak one's mind over that of protecting the "honor" of religious beliefs? Or do we want to continue following the dictates of the ancient past; copying laws established to forbid certain types of world views and killing people for violating them. The answer should be obvious: we need to ensure that a person's freedom of thought and speech is paramount. The sacredness some hold for religion must never be written into the law, and blasphemy must never be justification for violence, government-sanctioned or otherwise. If we fail to agree on these basic principles of free expression the world will quickly become a much less democratic and free place than it is today.


A much needed International Day of the Girl - Opinion

A much needed International Day of the Girl - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
According to UN Women, half of sexual assaults globally are committed against girls under 16. The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2002 alone, 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence.
In the US, 83 per cent of girls experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools, and Canadian statistics reveal that 64 per cent of all reported sexual assaults are against children.
Girls are sexually abused by school-principals, teachers and classmates. Medical research conducted by Human Rights Watch in South Africa found that almost 38 per cent of victims identified a schoolteacher or principal as their rapist. Schools are not exactly safe places for girls.
The pervasiveness of violence against girls led the United Nations to declare the International Day of the Girl. In the wake of the 2006 Secretary-General Study on Violence Against Children, the UN appointed a Special Representative on the issue, and in 2009 the International Girl Child Conferencein The Hague stressed the importance of gender inequalities among children. The failure to respond to violence against girls expresses the political tolerance vis-à-vis such crimes and international efforts are increasingly geared at changing social inertia

School-related violence undermines girls' physical and psychological well-being, often causing them to drop out and hindering their educational achievement. In the long run, violence against girls impacts women's self-esteem, agency and empowerment into adulthood.
Girls who drop out of school will be more vulnerable socio-economically and more likely to submit to domestic violence later in life. They will also be less likely to become political leaders. If we want more women running for elections, as Ecuadorian political parties do, we must make schools safer environments for girls. Women's empowerment begins with girls' empowerment.

Day of the Girl: One in three girls married before 18, UN warns

One in three girls married before 18, UN warns - Telegraph
This is Tehani. She got married when she was six, some 19 years younger than her husband.
The young wife poses for a portrait photo with her 25 year-old husband in her home town Hajjah, in northwestern Yemen. Two years later, aged eight, she recalls: "Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him."
Her story is one of thousands being told in a new report published by the United Nations on Thursday, to mark the UN Day of the Girl. The report, Marrying Too Young, End Child Marriage, makes it clear that despite near-universal commitments to end child marriage, the practice remains rampant.
If nothing changes, developing countries will witness an increase in child marriage, the report predicts. Between now and 2020, there will be 142m child marriages and 151m in the subsequent decade, it warns.
The figures are already bleak. One in three girls in developing countries, excluding China, will probably be married before they are 18. One in nine will be married before their 15th birthday, the study reveals.
Most of these girls are poor, less-educated and living in rural areas, the UN says. With the right education and information, young girls in developing countries can avoid the pitfalls of child marriage - but they need urgent support.
"Girls need, education, health, social and livelihood skills to become fully empowered citizens. Most immediately important is helping already married girls to avoid early pregnancy and when pregnant have access to appropriate care during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, including access to family planning," the report said.
Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund, which works to promote and protect the human rights of girls, said: "Child marriage is a human rights abuse. It constitutes a grave threat to young girls’ lives, health and future prospects.