Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Legalising Sex-Work Debate: Ensure Sharmila’s Safety

“We especially decry efforts of some individuals and organisations to invoke religion and culture to condemn Sharmila, thus potentially inciting extra-legal action against her. Such opportunistic and instrumental use of religion and culture is a threat to meaningful and informed public discourse, and promotes chauvinism and intolerance for which  our country has already paid dearly. We call on state authorities at the provincial and national level to ensure Sharmila’s safety and well-being, for which they bear primary responsibility. We also call on all community leaders, in particular from within the Muslim community, to take measures to ensure that Sharmila and her family are not the subject of any further threats or intimidation.” say Civil Society activists.
Sharmila Seyyid
Sharmila Seyyid

They issued a statement condemning the attack on Sharmila Seyyid on her opinion on Legalising sex-work.

We publish below the full text of  the statement;
On the 20th November 2012, a section of the media reported that Mr. Ajith Prasanna, a member of the Southern Provincial Council from the ruling alliance (UPFA), called for the legalization of sex-work (prostitution) to boost tourism in the country. While sex work as such is not criminalised in Sri Lanka, soliciting sex in public and maintaining of brothels are illegal. If Mr. Prasanna was referring to legalising these issues, we want to make the point that legalization of all kinds of sex-work (while being a topic of debate) is a policy advocated not only by many organisations of sex workers and women’s rights activists around the world, it is also the official policy of many countries. Yet measures such as legalization or decriminalization of sex-work have to be motivated by the aim of protecting the rights and security of women in sex work and enabling them to safeguard their own interests. Legalization driven by concerns such as boosting tourism or generating foreign exchange earnings are not just misguided but also fraught with the risk of jeopardizing the rights of those engaged in sex-work. We therefore strongly disagree with the instrumental approach to legalization of sex-work advocated by Mr. Ajith Prasanna because this only risks further objectifying and commoditizing women’s bodies.
Subsequently, on 20th November 2012, a women’s rights activist from Eravur in Batticaloa, Sharmila Seyyid, during the course of an interview with the BBC (Tamil service) expressed the view that if sex work is legalised in Sri Lanka, it may protect sex-workers. Her comments have resulted in a backlash from some sections within the Muslim community, including threats and intimidation, which has forced her to go into hiding with her child. Her family in Eravur has also been threatened and intimidated, including through an attempt to burn down a montessori school run by Sharmila’s younger sister on 22nd November 2012. We strongly condemn the threats against and intimidation of Sharmila and her family, which undermine the right to express one’s opinions freely concerning issues of public policy (a right which is recognised by the Constitution of Sri Lanka). While informed debate and disagreement are inevitable and to be welcomed on such a complex issue, intimidating or threatening people into silence because their opinions are contrary to the dominant point of view is unacceptable in a democracy. We especially decry efforts of some individuals and organisations to invoke religion and culture to condemn Sharmila, thus potentially inciting extra-legal action against her. Such opportunistic and instrumental use of religion and culture is a threat to meaningful and informed public discourse, and promotes chauvinism and intolerance for which  our country has already paid dearly.
We call on state authorities at the provincial and national level to ensure Sharmila’s safety and well-being, for which they bear primary responsibility. We also call on all community leaders, in particular from within the Muslim community, to take measures to ensure that Sharmila and her family are not the subject of any further threats or intimidation.
We also call on responsible authorities such as Provincial Councillors to refrain from calling for law reform based on commodification of women’s bodies.
Signed by:
1.      Affected Women’s Forum – Akkaraipattu
2.      Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
3.      Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Colombo
4.      Centre for Women’s Research (CENWOR), Colombo
5.      Equal Ground
6.      Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
7.      Mullaitheevu Women’s Development and Rehabilitation Federation
8.      Muslim Women’s Development Trust
9.      Voluntary Service and Development Organization for Women
10.  Women’s Action Network
11.  Women’s Coalition for Disaster Management Batticaloa
12.  Women’s Education and Research Centre (WERC)
13.  A. Renu
14.  A. U. Gunasekera.
15.  Bhavani Fonseka
16.  Cayathri Divakalala
17.  Chulani Kodikara, International Centre for Ethnic Studies
18.  Deanne Uyangoda
19.  Farah Haniffa
20.  Francis Solomantine
21.  Herman Kumara
22. J. Karunenthira, Third Eye Friends Circle
23.  Janakie Seneviratne
24.  Jensila Majeed
25.  Jeyachitra Velayudan
26.  Jovita Arulanantham
27.  Juwairiya Mohideen
28.  K.S. Ratnavail
29.  Kuhanithi Kunachandran
30.  Kumudini Samuel
31.  Lakshan Dias (Attorney at law)
32.  Lakshman F. B. Gunasekara
33.  M. Ganesan
34.  Mahalaxumi Kurushanthan
35.  Maithree Wickramasinghe, Independent Researcher
36.  Mala Liyanage
37.  Mangala Shanker
38.  Marisa de Silva
39.  Melisha Yapa
40.  Mirak Raheem
41.  Muttukrishna Sarvananthan
42.  Navarangini Nadarajah
43.  Nimalka Fernando
44.  P.  P. Sivapragasam
45.  P. N. Singham
46.  Prema Gamage
47.  Prema Gamage
48.  Priya Thangarajah, Legal Researcher
49.  Rajani Chandrasekaran (GBV desk Jaffna)
50.  Rameeza Khan
51.  Rasika Mendis
52.  Ruki Fernando
53.  S. Ithayarani
54.  Sachini Perera
55.  Sarala Emmanuel
56.  Selvy Thiruchandran
57.  Sharmila Haniffa
58.  Sherine Xavier, Home for Human Rights
59.  Shreen Abdul Saroor
60.  Shyamala Gomez
61.  Shyamala Sivagurunathan
62.  Sitralega Maunaguru
63.  Sornalinham
64.  Sumathy Sivamohan
65.  Thushari Madahapola
66.  Vasuki Jeyasankar, Women’s Rights Activist, Batticaloa.

More reading of sex works, click from here>>>


Home               Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Sri Lankan Muslim Journalist Sharmila Seyyid & Sex Workers’ Rights

'' Sex workers may be better protected if prostitution was legalized. Sharmila Seyyid said on BBC Tamil. "
Muslim Civil Society activists have urged the Sri Lankan authorities to bring to book those who have been harassing and intimidating journalist and social worker Sharmila Seyyid for her opinion on rights of the sex workers.

Sharmila Seyyid
Sharmila Seyyid

Giving an interview to the BBC Tamil radio she said that sex workers may be better protected if prostitution was legalized.

“This drew a significant backlash from a section of the Muslim community in the area and elsewhere prompting her to issue a clarification, in which she emphasized that she was ‘…only highlighting a social reality and did not intend to defy Islamic tenets’. She also expressed ‘regret if she had unwittingly hurt anyone’s sentiments’.” activists say.

We publish below the statement in full;

Statement on the continued harassment of Ms. Sharmila Seyyid and her family

We, the undersigned would like to express our extreme distress and dismay at the incidents of harassment against Ms. Sharmila Seyyid and her family through a variety of means including social media.

In November 2012, the Tamil Radio Service of the BBC interviewed Ms. Sharmila Seyyid, a journalist and social worker from the Eastern Province. In response to a question from the BBC reporter, Ms. Seyyid had voiced the opinion that sex workers may be better protected if prostitution was legalized. This drew a significant backlash from a section of the Muslim community in the area and elsewhere prompting her to issue a clarification, in which she emphasized that she was “…only highlighting a social reality and did not intend to defy Islamic tenets”. She also expressed “regret if she had unwittingly hurt anyone’s sentiments”.

The harassment and intimidation that began in the aftermath of the 2012 interview has resulted in her having to leave the country, and continues to this day, impacting other family members as well. An article reproduced in both the Sunday Observer and the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka on the 19th of April 2015 recorded several more recent truly horrifying actions against her on the internet and also recorded renewed calls by some to condemn her for insulting and offending Islamic teachings.
While we acknowledge that prostitution is prohibited in Islam (as in many other religions), we nevertheless uphold that Ms. Seyyid is within her rights and freedoms to express her personal views; and condemn all forms of harassment, intimidation and hatred by vigilante groups and individuals that are justified based on claims to the above. While we acknowledge and respect that feelings may have been hurt and sensibilities offended, we also categorically state that defaming, harassing and inciting violence against a person for holding a different opinion, in this case a woman, is unacceptable and not within the spirit of the faith, and can also be deemed a contravention of the law. If people feel themselves to have been wronged, due process should be followed to seek redress.
This event highlights the critical need within the Muslim community, and also in the country at large, for developing processes to respond to critical issues, not through vilification, harassment or violence but through a process of dialogue that is in keeping with the law and norms of a democratic society and respectful of different faiths and ethics.

We urge the authorities to ensure that a thorough and fair investigation is conducted with regard to the complaints received by the aggrieved parties and hold those responsible for misconduct accountable. We also request that community religious leaders such as the Jamiathul Ulema take steps to halt the targeting of fellow Muslims based on spurious religious justifications. We also call upon all community leaders and civil society actors of the Muslim community to continue to play an active role in upholding the rights of every citizen.
  1. Sharm Aboosally
  2. Azra Abdul Cader
  3. Fathima Razik Cader
  4. Zahabia Adamaly
  5. Hilmy Ahamed
  6. Silma Ahamed
  7. Ferial Ashraff
  8. Abdul Halik Azeez
  9. Fathima Hasanah Cegu Isadeen -Lawyer
  10. Ameer Faaiz
  11. M.B.M.Fairooz- Editor, Vidivelli.
  12. Mushtaq Fuad
  13. Anberiya Hanifa
  14. Dr. Farzana Haniffa
  15. Faiza Haniffa
  16. Prof. Shahul. H. Hasbullah
  17. Ali Hassan
  18. Shafinaz Hassendeen
  19. Zeenath Hidaya
  20. M.H. Mohamed Hisham
  21. Ameena Hussein
  22. Hafsa Husain
  23. Hana Ibrahim
  24. Zainab Ibrahim
  25. Prof. Qadri Ismail
  26. M.C.M. Iqbal
  27. Ameen Izzadeen, Deputy Editor, Sunday Times.
  28. Nisreen Jafferjee
  29. Riyaz Jafferjee
  30. Zaffar Jeevunjee
  31. Hamthun Jumana – Mullaitheevu Women Rehabilitation and Development Federation
  32. M.S.L. Madani
  33. Mohamad Mahuruf
  34. Jensila Majeed – Women’s Action Network
  35. Juwairiya Mohideen – Muslim Women Development Trust
  36. Mr. M.L. Buhary Mohamed – Eastern Social Development Foundation
  37. Zamruth Jahan Mufazlin – Lawyer
  38. Mohamed S.R. Nisthar
  39. Feroze Nihar
  40. Prof. M. A. Nuhman
  41. Nuzreth Rasheed
  42. M. M. Rahman
  43. Rajabdeen Rashika – MWRDF
  44. Prof. Louiqa Raschid
  45. Dr. Romola Rasool
  46. A.S. Mohamed Rayees
  47. Amjad Saleem.
  48. Shreen Saroor – Mannar Women’s Development Federation
49. Ermiza Tegal
50. Minna Thahir
51. S.M.M. Yaseen
52. Hanif Yusoof
53. Hela Mohammed Zakariya – Women’s Action Network 54. Faizun Zackariya – Citizens’ Voice for Justice and Peace. 55. A.J.M. Zaneer
56. Y.L.M. Zawahir
57. Dr. L. M. Zubair – University of Peradeniya


Home          Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Indian Army Raped Us


Naked women protestors shout slogans against the alleged rape, torture and murder of Thangjam Manorama by paramilitary soldiers in Imphal, capital of northeastern Indian state of Manipur, July, 2004. In a highly unusual protest, some 40 women stripped naked and staged an angry demonstration outside the Assam Rifles base to protest the death in custody of 32-year old Manorama.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Muslim Lesbian Partnership; Pakistani 02 women marry in Britain

Two former students from Pakistan are believed to have become the first Muslim lesbian couple to marry in a civil ceremony in Britain.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Same Sex Wedding in Buddism

Same-Sex Wedding: A nun officiated the first lesbian Buddhist ceremonial marriage in Taiwan by marrying You Ya-ting (left) and Huang Mei-yu in their white wedding gowns in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on August 11, 2012. Same-sex marriages are not legal in Taiwan which is why the union was ceremonial in nature.




Dr. AfiaSiddiqui V.s Anders Breiveik


Muslims of the West, please do not be fooled into thinking any system or anyone on earth can provide justice above the justice the legislative system Allah has given us. He created us, who better than to know how to rule us? # Dr. AfiaSiddiqui V.s Anders Breiveik


Road Show; Bulling & Humiliation


Saturday, 25 August 2012

My family beat me and hacked off my hair for kissing a white boy

  • Shamima Akhtar was attacked by her siblings for kissing a boy on her 18th birthday
  • They assaulted her and now partner Gary and threatened to kill her
  • Shamima's sisters and brother were convicted but not jailed for the assault
Assaulted: Shamina Akhtar and her partner Gary Pain were both beaten up by Shamina's siblings when she first kissed Gary at her 18th birthday party
Shamima Akhtar has got used to looking over her shoulder. Walking to work or shopping at the supermarket, she is watching closely, hoping ‘they’ aren’t following her. 

‘I don’t go out much in daylight,’ she says. ‘And when I do, I go to places they’re unlikely to find me.’

It’s a horrible way to live, one made all the worse by the fact that they ‘they’ are 19-year-old Shamima’s family — who terrify her and from whom she is completely estranged.

Few could blame her, given what she’s been through. 

Last year, three of her siblings — sisters Nazira, 29, Nadiya, 25, and brother Mohammed-Abdul, 24 — launched a sickening assault on Shamima, which culminated in her sisters slapping and punching her and hacking off her waist-length hair. 

Shamima’s crime? Kissing a white boy at her 18th birthday celebrations. 

Earlier this year, the trio were found guilty at Winchester Crown Court of actual bodily harm in a case that, the jury was told, centred on ‘honour-based domestic violence’.
While her Muslim family embraced certain aspects of Western life, behind the doors of their detached home in Basingstoke, Hampshire, strict Islamic law ruled. 

The price for contravening those laws can be high indeed, as Cheshire schoolgirl Shafilea Ahmed discovered. 

She found herself squeezed between two cultures — the Western one, which she wanted to embrace, and the Muslim one her parents wanted to impose upon her.
Last month, her parents were sentenced to life imprisonment for her brutal murder after she failed to toe the religious line. 

Shamima’s fate was not so grim, but her fellow teenager’s story has prompted her to give her first interview and reveal how she lives in fear of further reprisals. ‘I’m frightened of my family,’ she says.

‘I don’t feel that what happened is the end, but the beginning. Whatever shame my family believe I brought on them is now a hundred times worse.’

Shamima has severed her links with her old world. Today, she shares a homely two- bedroom flat with Gary Pain, 23, the work colleague whose kiss prompted such outrage. 

It was, she reveals sweetly, their first, and marked the start of a blossoming romance, despite its grim backdrop. 

‘Gary is the one good thing to come out of this,’ she says. ‘I am happy, but at the same time I’ve lost my entire family and that’s hard. I can never go back.’ 

Her eyes brim with tears, and little wonder. It is a bewildering state of affairs for a young woman who, by her own admission, had for many years thought hers was a happy family.

Born and raised in London, Shamima was the youngest of six siblings raised by Abdul and Jahamara Kalam. 

Abdul had come to Britain from his native Bangladesh aged four, while his wife had arrived here as his bride in an arranged marriage.
As Shamima grew up, her father found work running a café and as a taxi driver, while Jahamara stayed at home to raise their expanding family — Rugi, now 32, Ripon, 30, Nazira, Nadiya, Mohammed-Abdul and Shamima. 

‘We were all close — we got along well and we enjoyed doing things as a family,’ says Shamima. 

That all changed eight years ago, however, after her sister Nazira, then 21, fled back to the family home from her arranged marriage in Bangladesh, having been involved in a vicious row with her new husband on their wedding night. 

Fleeing was an act of rebellion that sparked a year of furious family rows. 

‘Everything changed within the family,’ says Shamima. ‘There were constant arguments and all the love and affection just seemed to vanish overnight. 

‘I was bewildered. I was only 12 and couldn’t understand why every- thing had changed. In some ways, I still don’t’. 

Her own life, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly miserable. ‘No one really talked to me within the family, and I was ignored. The only time my family spoke to me was to tell me what I couldn’t do. 

‘I wasn’t allowed to do anything —  I couldn’t go on sleepovers, school trips, even to the park after school. I had school friends, but not proper friends. My life stopped at the school gates and after that I had no one to turn to. 

‘Even if I did, I wouldn’t say anything. I’d been brought up to say nothing.’

Guilty: Nadiya Akhtar, 25, (right) and Nazira Akhtar, 29, were found guilty of actual bodily harm of their younger sister but to Shamima's disappointment they got away with a conditional discharge and a fine
 Guilty: Nadiya Akhtar, 25, (right) and Nazira Akhtar, 29, were found guilty of actual bodily harm of their younger sister but to Shamima's disappointment they got away with a conditional discharge and a fine 

Even so, at the age of 15, Shamima saved up her lunch money for months to enable her to buy a cheap mobile phone, allowing her to text the one or two girls she had become close to at school. 

‘It was one small way of asserting my independence,’ she says. ‘I knew I didn’t want to live like the rest of the family, I just didn’t know how to achieve it. It seemed impossible.’ 

Following her GCSEs, Shamima’s parents wanted her to stay at home and help with the housework. 

Her sister Rugi, though, stepped in and got her sister a job in a local department store in October 2009, arguing that the salary she would bring in would help the family. 

‘I started on a contract, but within a few months I’d not only been given a permanent job but promoted to team leader,’ says Shamima. 

‘It may sound like nothing, but it made me so proud. This was the first thing I’d done on my own.’ Outside work, however, Shamima’s life was as restricted as it had been before. 

‘One of the family dropped me off at work and picked me up every day. I couldn’t go to any staff gatherings, Christmas parties, nothing,’ she says. 

‘My family would even come in at random to check I was at work, and my salary was paid into my mother’s bank account. I was given just £10 a week of my own. It was suffocating. I was just a young girl trying to make her way in the world and I felt so trapped.’

As her confidence grew, however, Shamima started to become more daring.
‘I confided in my manager, who said he would cover for me. My family didn’t know my exact hours, so I would tell them I was going to work, then when I got there I would take off my uniform shirt, put on a top and just have a few hours doing what a normal teenage girl would do — going to the shops or to  the cinema. 

Her rock: Shamina says she is 'lucky' to have Gary to turn to unlike many girls in her situation who have no one 

‘If my family popped in, my manager would tell them I was in the stockroom and couldn’t be disturbed. It was so liberating.’ 

Within a few months, Shamima had formed a close bond with a male colleague — presumably precisely what her parents most feared. 

His name was Gary Pain, and from their first conversation there was  a spark.
‘I was Gary’s manager at first, and I liked him instantly,’ she says. ‘He was the first man to express a real interest in my life, and to listen to what I said. He treated me with respect.’ 

At the time, however, romance couldn’t have been further from Shamima’s mind.
And her family had already made it clear that she would be expected to have an arranged marriage. 

‘I just tried to push it to the back of my mind. I still had two older sisters and thought they’d have to get married first, so I had time on my side,’ she says.
Then, in March last year, Shamima turned 18. 

‘My parents had gone to Bangladesh, but before they left I asked if I could go for a meal to mark my birthday. My father agreed, but said that in their absence my sisters would act as my guardians and they would decide the time I had to return.’

After intense negotiation, it was agreed that Shamima could go for dinner with colleagues on April 1, between 8.30pm and 10.30pm, providing only women were present. 

‘They thought they were being generous, but even then, they plagued me,’ says Shamima. 

‘I had 22 missed calls and endless texts on a phone they’d bought me so they could check up on me. 

‘It got so bad that in the end, one of my colleagues grabbed the phone, turned it off and said: “This is your night.” I was scared, but at the same time I felt thrilled, too. This was the most rebellious I had ever been. 

‘We left the restaurant and went on to a bar, so my family didn’t know where I was.’
By midnight, when she begged for her phone back and turned it on, she had countless more missed calls. 

‘I answered one call and it was Nazira, screaming down the phone.’ 

Shamima says that despite her own arranged marriage ending so badly, her elder sister had never shown any sympathy or understanding towards her youngest sibling. 

‘They said they were coming for me now. I told them where I was.’ Gary, who had been present, walked her downstairs to the car park and it was there, she says, that they kissed for the first time. 

‘He said “I’ve been waiting to do this all night” and he took my face in his hands. It was the most amazing feeling ever. Here was someone who just accepted me for who I was.’ 

She had little time to enjoy this feeling: within moments bright headlights swept into the car park and her siblings came rushing towards her. 

‘It all happened so quickly,’ she says. ‘My brother grabbed Gary by the throat and my sisters dragged me into the car. 

‘Nazira punched me in the head as soon as I got in — it was so  painful. They put the childlock on so I couldn’t escape and I heard my brother say: “We’re doing it tonight. Get the boys. Get the gun.” I was petrified.’ 

Back in the car park, Gary had been left, helpless, unable to do anything to intervene.
Back home, Shamima was dragged into the house by her hair and thrown to the floor, where her siblings started to kick her. ‘They were calling me a slag and a prostitute,’ she says, her eyes flooding with tears. ‘I was so scared I actually wet myself. I thought I was going to die.’ 

As she would later testify in court, she had good reason to: her brother came into the room with two knives and a hammer, telling his sister to choose one to use on her and one on ‘lover-boy’.

‘My only thought was that at least they didn’t know where Gary lived,’ she says. ‘My brother then said I had to be punished and that my hair must be cut. 

‘It was my pride and joy and I begged them not to, but they bunched it up into a pony tail and hacked it to neck level,’ she recalls. Bleeding and bruised, Shamima was then forced to sleep on the floor.

Unbeknown to her siblings, however, she did have a secret weapon, in the form of her mobile phone she had invested in two years before. Surreptitiously, she texted Gary and asked him to call the police. 

‘I locked myself in a bedroom by pushing a chest of drawers against a door,’ she says. ‘When the police came, I was so relieved I cried.’ 

Her siblings were arrested, while Shamima was taken to the police station to give a statement. She has never been home, or spoken to any member of her family since, though her parents have texted her asking her to return. 

‘How could I after everything?’ she says. ‘I don’t want to see any of them ever again.
‘When I left the house that day, I didn’t look back. The police managed to get some of my belongings, and I went to stay at a friend’s house.’ 

She later went to live with Gary and his mother before the couple finally got a place of their own  earlier this year. 

In the meantime, she has had to endure the difficulty of a trial. She gave evidence from behind a partition, but still struggled with the process of testifying against her family. 

‘I felt very alone, even with Gary looking after me,’ she says. ‘Each of my siblings had their own barrister, so I was questioned over and over again for six days. I just wanted it to be over.’ 

Finally, after three weeks, the jury returned its verdict, rejecting the charges of false imprisonment, but finding the two sisters guilty of actual bodily harm and her brother guilty of assaulting Mr Pain. 

Today, Shamima admits she had hoped her siblings would go to prison. Instead, when sentencing them, Judge Guy Boney told them he would treat them leniently, giving them each a conditional discharge and a fine. 

‘It felt like the equivalent of a slap on the wrist,’ says Shamima. ‘I couldn’t have asked for more from the police, but part of me felt like a fool. I wanted the judge to send a message to families like mine.’ 

Instead, by agreeing to speak out she is doing that herself. Her hope, she says, is that people  can understand the difficulties of young women like her, caught between two worlds. 

‘I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I just want people to know this is going on behind closed doors,’ she says. 

‘In some ways I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve got Gary. But there are hundreds of girls like me out there who have no one to turn to.’ (Dailymail-UK)


Tuesday, 14 August 2012