It’s Monday! Here’s this week’s post for our Get Educated, One Blog At A Time blog series! This week you can read about gender equality and women’s rights in the Middle East. Also, check out our past blog posts from the series, including: “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure”, “A Necessary Priority”, “A Reform For The World”, “The Rural Challenge” and “Help Starts Young”.
The issues of female rights and gender equality in the Middle East exist as challenges the UN, activists, citizens, and many others are currently trying to correct. Most Middle Eastern countries follow the Islamic religion, laying the foundation for what some have interpreted as female obedience and submission to men. These countries have expanded upon and even created rules for women that mimic religious fanaticism. As Middle Eastern/Arab countries such as Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq are now preoccupied with the issue of the Arab Springs and the political and social changes engulfing their country, women’s rights are being pushed to the backburner as insignificant worries. Nevertheless, gender equality remains an important issue that needs to be addressed.
The absence of gender equality in the Middle East is apparent in social restrictions, cultural regulations, politics, and lack of economic rights and opportunity that women experience in this region everyday. According to the laws of Islam, the separation of genders is necessary because women have the ability to tempt men through improper behavior. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women and men are not allowed to use/occupy the public library at the same time. Also, females are required to dress “modestly” in many of these countries so as to conceal their bodies for their husband and prevent temptation: women in both Saudi Arabia and the Kashmir region in India have been threatened, beaten, and unfairly treated for not wearing the burqa, a garment that covers the entire body and leaves little holes for the eyes. In terms of politics, women are restricted from roles of power and authority that are believed to belong to men. Laws protecting women from physical abuse and sexual abuse within a marriage are rare. Relating to Middle Eastern women’s inability to hold positions of power, economic opportunities such as entrepreneurship and leading a company are almost impossible dreams.
UN Documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) stand as milestones for the efforts international gender equality. Both documents have councils that are in charge of monitoring the progress of those countries that have ratified them with regards to gender equality. Ensuring that each individual country is making progressive strides towards female empowerment are the committees’ primary concerns. While the UDHR states rights as “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and “everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law”, CEDAW is aimed at specifically ensuring female empowerment, equality, and opportunities worldwide. While gender inequality is still very much a reality of our world today, countries like Kuwait (gave women the right to vote and run for office in 2005) and Bahrain (now allows for the appointment of female judges) are making significant strides towards ending this injustice and promoting the equality we each deserve, gender aside.