Musawah – A Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family
Table of Contents
- 1 Launch of Musawah
- 2 The Musawah Community
- 3 Current Projects
- 4 Key Resources
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Launch of Musawah
From 13-17 February 2009, Musawah held its first Global Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Approximately 250 activists, scholars, academics, legal practitioners and policy makers from some fifty countries attended the meeting. The international planning committee of Musawah spent almost two years building a foundation for the initiative by commissioning background theoretical papers to provide the basic grounding to understand why equality and justice is necessary and possible; developing a Framework for Action and principles to guide Musawah’s work; consulting scholars, activists and practitioners from over thirty Muslim countries in this process; building a website to promote the Musawah principles and substantive arguments for family law reform; and organising the February 2009 Global Meeting to bring activists, scholars and decision-makers together in a common demand for equality and justice.http://www.musawah.org/home/2009-global-meeting
The objectives of the meeting were to introduce the movement, its principles, process, objectives, resources, tools and conceptual framework; empower women’s groups, activists and practitioners through the sharing of knowledge and experiences; build support and alliances; and agree on the way forward for Musawah.
Zainah’s opening speech at the 2009 global launch is a widely quoted preamble to new allies of the movement. In it, Zainah confirms the timely advent of Musawah and its potential to the larger women’s and human rights movement in bringing:
- An assertion that Islam can be a source of empowerment, not a source of oppression and discrimination;
- An effort to open new horizons for rethinking the relationship between human rights, equality and justice, and Islam;
- An offer to open a new constructive dialogue where religion is no longer an obstacle to equality for women, but a source for liberation;
- A collective strength of conviction and courage to stop governments and patriarchal authorities, and ideological non-state actors from the convenience of using religion and the word of God to silence our demands for equality, and
- A space where activists, scholars, decision makers, working within the human rights of Islamic framework, or both, can interact and mutually strengthen the common pursuit of equality and justice for Muslim women.
Framework for Action
Increasingly, women are claiming for themselves the right to shape the interpretations, norms and laws that affect their lives. Over the past few decades, women activists, scholars, and rights groups in Muslim contexts have built on the efforts of earlier generations to push for recognition of equality between men and women and to protect positive legal provisions where they exist.
Musawah emerged to highlight these efforts and further explore, develop, and share a broader, holistic framework for promoting concepts of justice and equality in Islam, and the Muslim family in particular. The Musawah Framework for Action argues for reform from multiple approaches:
- Islamic sources, including Muslim jurisprudence,
- International human rights standards,
- National laws and constitutional guarantees of equality, and
- Lived realities of women and men.
The Framework offers the possibility that these various approaches, which Musawah views as having equal value, can be in harmony with each other. As such, women can locate their activism, their feminism, and their demands for justice and equality in both Islamic and human rights frameworks, choosing how to emphasis the different approaches in their advocacy strategies according to their specific needs and contexts.http://www.musawah.org/about-musawah/framework-action
The complete Musawah Framework for Action is available in English, Arabic, French, Bahasa Malaysia and Farsi for Advocates and allies to download, study, share and adapt into their own efforts in their various contexts.
Click here to read more about Musawah’s Key Messages, Vision, Goal, Objectives and underlying Key Principles.
The Musawah Community
Musawah is a movement for all who share Musawah’s principles and vision for change. While women and men of all religions and beliefs make up the Musawah community, Musawah is led by Muslim women so as to reflect their particular need for equality and justice in the family and to highlight their efforts to show that this is possible within Islam. Musawah seeks to provide knowledge resources, information, and links that can support those working to ensure equality in family laws and practices in Muslim contexts, including where these laws and practices are codified or uncodified, secular or based on religion, and where they affect Muslims as well as people of other religions and beliefs.http://www.musawah.org/about-musawah/structure
The Musawah community consists of Musawah Advocates, allies, Affinity Groups, Working Groups, the International Advisory Group and its Steering Committee, the Musawah Secretariat, and everyone who has a stake and is actively involved in Musawah’s work. Together, they seek to provide knowledge resources, information, and links that can support those working to ensure equality in family laws and practices in diverse contexts. This includes contexts in which laws and practices are codified or uncodified, secular or religious, whether they apply only to Muslims or affect people of different religions and beliefs.
Advocates share Musawah’s goal of equality in the family and have a stake in and commitment to the growth of the movement. All Advocates agree with the Musawah Framework, use the Framework in their activities, and contribute to the achievement of Musawah’s strategic goals and objectives.
To find out about joining the movement and/or to be added on to the Musawah mailing list, contact – email@example.com .
Musawah Affinity Groups
Affinity Groups are self-formed groups of individual Advocates or organisations who share a national, regional, thematic, or contextual focus, and who want to advance their advocacy by tapping into the solidarity and strength of collective thought and action. Examples include the Horn of Africa Affinity Group, the Nigeria Affinity Group, the Indonesian coalition of organisations called Alimat, the Young Women’s Caucus (YWC), and the Minorities North Affinity Group. Affinity Groups make autonomous decisions on their scope and focus and are considered part of Musawah as long as they agree with Musawah’s vision and principles and actively contribute to the achievement of Musawah’s strategic goals and objectives.http://www.musawah.org/about-musawah/structure
The Musawah Secretariat
Musawah has a rotating Secretariat. This is to ensure that as a global movement, it can grow in diverse cultural and political contexts. This also offers different Advocates the opportunity to take up leadership. The current Secretariat is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
To contact the Musawah Secretariat, email – firstname.lastname@example.org .
Musawah Working Groups
Musawah works on three inter-related areas in order to build a strong movement of women and men working towards a common goal of equality and justice in Muslim families. All of the three areas are supported by communications activities:
- Knowledge Building
- Outreach/Movement Building
- International Advocacy
Musawah Knowledge Building Initiative on Qiwamah and Wilayah (QiWi Initiative)
Recently Musawah undertook a ground-breaking, long-term, multi-faceted knowledge building initiative on the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah, which are commonly understood as sanctioning men’s authority over women. As interpreted and constructed in Muslim legal traditions, and as applied in modern laws and practices, these concepts play a central role in institutionalising, justifying and sustaining a patriarchal model of families in Muslim contexts, which Musawah problematises as the ‘DNA of patriarchy’ in the Muslim world. In Muslim legal traditions, marriage automatically places a wife under her husband’s qiwamah and presumes an exchange: the wife’s obedience and submission (tamkin) in return for maintenance (nafaqah) from the husband. This theoretical relationship, which still underlies many family law provisions in our contexts as Muslims today, results in inequality in matters such as financial security, right to divorce, custody and guardianship, choice and consent in marriage, sexual and reproductive health and rights, inheritance and nationality laws. This inequality is out of tune with contemporary notions of Islamic and human rights principles. It also clashes with the reality that men are often unable or unwilling to protect and provide for their families. Musawah recognises that it is time to acknowledge that women often serve as the providers for and protectors of their families.http://www.musawah.org/what-we-do/qiwamah-and-wilayah
Musawah International Advocacy Initiative on CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws
Musawah are currently consulting with and training activists on the Musawah Framework for Action and CEDAW and Muslim family laws . Activists may use the knowledge and strategies acquired for their NGO shadow reports and to lobby CEDAW Committee members in challenging the use of Islam by governments to maintain their reservations and resists demands for law reform to end discrimination against women. Musawah will work closely with Advocates from reporting countries and the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW Asia-Pacific) and other NGOs that conduct trainings on CEDAW in responding to the needs of activists working in Muslim contexts on how to respond constructively to the misuse of Islam by States parties. Musawah monitors States Parties’ compliance with Article 16 of the CEDAW Convention on marriage and family relations. It submits Thematic Reports and Oral Statements on Article 16 to the CEDAW Committee for key OIC countries where no shadow report has been submitted by any NGO. It also submits Fact Sheets to the CEDAW Committee with a focus on Article 16 to supplement NGO shadow reports by providing alternative arguments to show States Parties that equality and justice in Muslim familes are possible. Musawah’s ground-breaking report, CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws: In Search of Common Ground examines States parties’ justifications to their failure in implementing CEDAW with regard to family laws and pratices that discriminate against Muslim women.http://www.musawah.org/what-we-do/article-16
- Wanted: Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family – a set of theoretical papers that provide support for Musawah’s declaration that equality is necessary and possible in Muslim families today (English, Arabic, French)
- Home Truths: A Global Report on Equality in the Muslim Family – an overview of the status of Muslim family laws, the different stages countries are at, and various strategies that are being advocated by women’s groups on the ground for equality and justice (English, Arabic)
- CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws: In Search of Common Ground – this report documents the trends identified in the Musawah project on CEDAW, which examined States parties’ justifications for their failure to implement CEDAW with regard to family laws and pratices that discriminate against Muslim women. The research reviewed documents for 44 Muslim majority and minority countries that reported to the CEDAW Committee from 2005-2010 (English, Arabic)
- Musawah Vision, the newsletter of the movement – carries updates on the efforts of women’s groups around the world (available here)
- Musawah Strategic Direction – document that revisits and reaffirms Musawah’s vision and objectives, reviews progress in its key work areas, and sets its strategic direction for the next few years (English)
- Read a good review of the First Global Meeting in the July/August 2009 issue of The Middle East in London by Musawah Advocate Ziba Mir Hosseini – In Search of Equality: From London to Kuala Lumpur
- Read a fair summary as to why Musawah is important to the Muslim world, written by Musawah Advocate, the late Cassandra Balchin – Musawah: there cannot be justice without equality
- Read a concise analysis of Muslim legal tradition and its patriarchal underpinnings by Musawah Advocate Ziba Mir Hosseini and Zainah Anwar – Decoding the DNA of Patriarchy in Muslim Family Laws
- Read a critical opinion of how the democratic uprisings sweeping across the Arab region can impact on the ongoing discussion about Islam and women’s human rights by Musawah Advocate Janine Moussa – The Rightful place of gender equality within Islam
- Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, mentions Musawah in her statement at the 2011 Forum on Faith, Belief, and the Advancement of Women’s Human Rights
- Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, quotes from Zainah Anwar’s 2009 welcome speech – Women against Fundamentalism and for Equality
- Yakin Ertürk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, refers to Musawah at the 2012 AWID Forum – listen to audio recording in English here, and in Arabic and Turkish here
- Author, Isobel Coleman, writes on marrying secular and Islamic arguments to bring forth equality and justice in the Muslim world in Feminism in the Muslim World