Women remain 'slaves' despite UN accord: Egypt politician

Women are "the slaves of this age," according to an Egyptian politician who took a stand against the country's Muslim Brotherhood to back a UN declaration on violence against women.

Mervat Tallawy, who headed the Egyptian delegation at a United Nations conference that ended late Friday, said that despite the hard-fought declaration, secured after two weeks of tense negotiations, more help must be given to women in the Middle East.

Tallawy stunned many at the UN Commission on the Status of Women -- marked by blocking tactics by conservative Muslim and Roman Catholic states -- by backing the document that set global standards to combat violence against women.

Despite growing human rights, wealth and other progress, Tallawy told reporters after the landmark accord was approved that there is still too much discrimination.

"Women are the slaves of this age. This is unacceptable and particularly in our region," Tallawy said.

Tallawy, a diplomat turned politician and head of Egypt's National Women's Council, said "international solidarity is needed for women's empowerment and preventing this regressive mood whether in the developing countries or developed, in the Middle East in particular."

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, said this week that the proposed UN document "undermines Islamic ethics" and "would lead to the complete disintegration of society."

Tallawy said there is "a global wave of conservatism, of repression against women. And this paper is a message that if we can get together, hold power together, we can be a strong wave against this conservatism."

When asked about the Muslim Brotherhood's opposition, the official said she had already challenged Morsi in his office about Egypt's constitution.

"I believe in women's cause. I don't take money from the government, I work voluntarily. If they want to kick me out they can, but I will not change my belief in women."

The UN declaration broke new ground by stating that violence against women could not be justified by "any custom, tradition or religious consideration." This had infuriated Iran and other conservative Muslim states.

But Western nations had to tone down their demands for references to gay rights and sexual health rights to secure the accord after two weeks of tense negotiations. The United States and others said there should have been an acknowledgement that lesbian women also deserve equal rights.

"I was really afraid that we would not have an agreement," Norway's Gender Equality Minister Inga Marte Thorkildsen told AFP. Scandinavian nations took a tough stance at the conference calling for an aggressive document.

"I am very happy that it was possible to isolate some of the most reactionary groups, including the Vatican and Iran."

Thorkildsen was upset however that gender identity and sexual orientation was not included in the declaration.

"That was impossible and I think that it is sad that so many countries don't want to protect their own inhabitants from violence just because they have a different sexual orientation or gender identity. I find that unacceptable."

The minister said her concern now would be how countries apply the statement. The United Nations has called for concrete action to apply the commitments.

"It will vary to what extent the different countries will implement the different parts and that is worrying," said Thorkildsen.

The minister said there also had to be action to prevent a weakening of women's rights already achieved and highlighted "backlashes after the Arab Spring" to back comments made by Tallawy.

"There are too many forces who don't accept that women have the exact same rights as men. We have to fight in the future," said Thorkildsen.

  • Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia 1 hour 53 minutes ago
    Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day 16 hours ago
    The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day

    The Lotus Europa was one of the stranger sports cars of the '70s, but still managed to corner like a sheepdog thanks to its low weight and fiberglass body. This example caught by Dave Lindsay is fairly typical of the nicer early '70s Type 62 Europas Lotus exported to the United States; by today's standards they're odd, underpowered and unreliable — which means they have a fervent fan base.

  • Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph 17 hours ago
    Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph

    In MotoGP, a most strange sport, compact, highly fit men, most of them Spanish, Italian, Japanese, or Australian, maneuver 350-lb., multimillion-dollar motorcycles around Formula One tracks at 220 mph while wearing computerized suits that inflate when they fall off at speed. It feels as though you’re watching Tron live, and the crashes are just as spectacular. Driving these things requires a lot of nerve, as well as generous levels of Euro-style machismo. The riders of MotoGP can’t walk down the street in Barcelona or Milan without being followed by screaming fans. They’re like some sort of unholy marriage between Daft Punk and Apollo astronauts. In the United States, they’re just guys walking down the street.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.