12/03/2010

The women’s condition in the Arab world

Of course, the balance of lasts years shows that the condition of women has evolved in the Arab world, even if it is not homogeneous. Managers, doctors, members of government, economists, artists, Arab women have found their place in different areas that had been impossible to integrate before. The condition of Arab women, which has generally been improved, is a fundamental factor of development. The demographic transition and rising schooling rates have contributed to their emancipation. This March 8, 2010 gives us the opportunity to think about the Status of women in the Arab world.

In 1995, 189 countries had adopted the Beijing Declaration which recognized that gender equality and women’s empowerment were key criteria for development, peace and human rights. An action plan had been approved and put forward the key areas that needed improvement, including education, poverty, health, armed conflict, education, and politics.In this region, women are struggling to acquire rights. In Lebanon, they are fighting for the right to citizenship, child custody, quotas and against violence (see Droits de la femme au Liban : de légers progrès, mais la bataille reste longue, L’Orient Jour). In Egypt, after having obtained in 2003 the right to be appointed judge in the Constitutional Courts, the Judges Association of the State Council voted in late February 2010, against the appointment of women judges in this instance to decide on administrative litigation (see Constitutional Court takes on female judge appointments, Al Masry Alyoum). In Dubai, working women daily fight for their work because they must fulfill their family obligations which are considered as more important than their jobs (see Trying to create a balance between work and home, Gulfnews.com).

This illustrates well the situation of the female population in these countries, which is marked by tension between the traditions of Islam, the patriarchal system and the desire to modernize. We must find a balance: women are under the pressure of tradition, culture and power of dominant men.
Modernization is an accepted phenomenon when it concerns the economic and political, but when it affects civil society, is another story.

Progress is observable but the evolution is slow.

The royal figures such as Princess Lala Salma, wife of the King of Morocco Mohammed VI, and Queen Rania of Jordan, are offering a more modern picture and invest in social and humanitarian causes. In addition, created as part of the Arab League, the Arab Women Organization (AWO) aims to « strengthen the capacities of Arab women in all areas as a fundamental pillar for the promotion of the Arab community». But will this organization actually make advance the women’s cause or is it another policy initiative without concrete impact? For the purpose of cohesion problems that characterize the Arab League, can we really believe in AWO?

Moreover, there are still areas where women are not safe. One of the priorities is the protection of the female population against violence against them, which is unacceptable. Honor killings still exist and continue to terrorize young women. Moreover, domestic violence is an obstacle to improving the status of women. However, the report of Arab women’s condition is not negative. The main point is that many changes have taken place, thanks to the fact that women are agents of their own evolution. The changes are made in their favor thanks to women’s actions and involvement in civil society.
Therefore, changing the Arab women’s status will be carried out unless women have access to education, power and politics to defend their rights.

Sophia Vignard