Women's rights in Arab Spring nations

Women's rights in Arab Spring nations

In the Arab Spring nations, the Arab women play a pivotal role, which justifies their hopes of greater freedom and expanded rights for women especially after the revolts. However, their expectations have been thwarted by the deeply-embedded patriarchal framework of the society as well as the upsurge of Islamists, at least that is what the gender experts in the concerned nations opine.

One of the most conservative corners that the world has ever witnessed was raging with revolts and mass uprisings around three years ago, and that even saw the ousting of autocratic leaders. A widespread poll conducted on 22 Arab states by a Thompson Reuters Foundation in August-September 2013, revealed that three out of five Arab Spring countries feature in the lowest rung when it comes to women’s rights. Alarming, isn't it? While Egypt emerged as the worst country for women in the Arab world, it was closely followed by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The countries were demonstrated to be the hubs of almost every kind of aggression and injustice that can be inflicted upon a woman – gender violence, encroachment of reproduction rights, mistreatment of women in the family as well as their poor representation (or worse exclusion from) in politics and the economy. Syria, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia also failed to show the silver lining in their scores on the above-mentioned criteria.

However, hope came only in the form of the awareness that was generated amongst the poor women of their rights after the revolts. Nihal Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, stated that before the revolts, the concern for women’s rights were primarily confined to the “intellectual elite” ...the “crème-de-la-crème ladies of society”, but this was turned around and post-revolts, even ordinary and illiterate women have begun discussing women’s issues. What came as an appalling observation from the poll results was that Egypt was found out to be a worse nation for women than Saudi Arabia, even though it is the latter where women are not allowed to drive, and need permission from a male guardian to work or travel. It was noteworthy that almost every respondent asserted harassment to be a major concern in Egypt, and that calls for immediate attention. A U.N. report on women in April 2013 demonstrated that up to 99.3% women and girls in Egypt are subjected to sexual harassment.

The election of President Mohammed Mursi in Egypt was a crucial socio-economic development that triggered the infringement of women’s rights and gender equality, as told to Reuters. The Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power curbed many of women’s rights such as travelling and working freely, using contraception without her husband’s approval and was even against the idea of letting a woman control family planning. These threats, however, were removed after Mursi was deposed in a military coup, though women still enjoyed no autonomy in decision-making. The Islamist-led government was being perceived as a potential threat all across the Arab Spring nations, though women have also been speaking optimistically about the recent positive developments that have been spurred on by the revolts. They believe that the revolt has not failed women, and that good changes are being observed on women’s rights front; let’s hope that the uphill battle sees victory in these nations, and the womenfolk in these countries rediscover themselves in a society that is more conducive to them in an all-pervasive manner.

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