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  15 February 2012  | 15:46  . ET


Ghada Jamsheer


Ghada Jamsheer has been described as a “feisty” woman and has been declared a heretic by many clerics inside mosques. She vigorously fights for women’s rights and reformation of the courts in Bahrain while gaining widespread attention for her strong opinions and demonstrations. She first began a campaign for women’s rights in the gulf when she saw a woman banging her head on the ground and crying.


Her hysteria was caused by the loss of custody of her children in the divorce case, the reasoning being based on the Islamic law, Shari’a. Since then, Jamshir has advocated for reform. She now heads the Women's Petition Committee, a lobbying group formed in October 2002.


She is also a chairperson of the Bahraini Social Partnership for Combating Violence Against Women, a group of human rights organizations and Bahraini women established by an Amnesty International initiative in September 2004. Some of the injustices that she works on concern the bias against women in court cases, such as divorce, child custody, and traditions permitting "temporary marriages" that are equivalent to prostitution and abuse of young girls.


She wants to replace the Shari’a system with civil courts, because the Shari'a judges abuse their position to interpret the Koran as they please. However, on April 13, 2005, Jamsheer was charged with “insulting the judiciary” by the Public Prosecution. The charges relate to various petitions and articles published by the Women’s Petition Committee that called for reform of the family court system and accused the judiciary of corruption. She went to court on June 4, 2005 and denied all accusations. In addition to the charges for insulting the judge, she was also charged of defamation and slander of the husband of an abused victim.


Jamsheer faced the prospect of spending 15 years in prison for all of these offences if convicted under the Bahraini law. The charges in regards to the judge were dropped by the criminal court for “lack of conformity with procedural safeguards.” As for the other case concerning the husband of the victim, the court found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute her. Despite the serious charges and the prospect of jail, she has continued to advocate for women’s rights. She has said:


All her life, the woman is a prisoner in her own home. In the past, she would not go out to work, or to study abroad. Very few women would go to university outside Bahrain. She is at home in order to cook, sweep, and raise the children. How will she get an education? There are women whose families are extremist. They even force them to marry against their will. You tell me, why is female circumcision still practiced in the Arab world? Why? Because there is no education, no awareness. A few days ago, a four-year-old girl called An'am died in Sudan.


She also continues in her fight against the Shari’a courts for permitting the rape and molestation of young female children. She says:


Does the Islamic Shari'a authorize mut'ah marriages? Does the Islamic Shari'a authorize mut'ah according to the following classification: 'Pleasure from sexual contact with her thighs.' They have: 'Pleasure from sexual touching,' 'pleasure from sexual contact with her breasts." Pleasure from a little girl". "Do you know what pleasure from a little girl" means? It means that they derive sexual pleasure from a girl aged two, three, or four.


Ghada Jamshir to this day advocates for the improvement in women’s lives and rights in her native homeland of Bahrain, regardless of the threats. Nothing seems to deter her from fighting for what she believes in.

Published : 1/11/2007 4:38 PM
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