Human beings in the modern world have equal human rights, and it is unethical to violate women’s rights for a number of reasons. Women are regarded as legal minors in the Middle East, and they are subordinate to men, so their rights are inferior to men’s rights. The situation is not the same in all Middle Eastern countries; in some, women have the same rights as men, while in others, they are not allowed to vote, attend school, hold leadership roles, or make decisions, among other things. For women in developed countries and other parts of the world, women have been granted equal rights as men, but this came after an extended period of struggle. Comparing the situation with other countries, there is a need for change, and this can only come from within since its women in this region who understand better their problems.
Religion and state laws formulated in these countries have been degrading women for a long time, but the situation is slowly changing. Human rights activists and civil societies have been fighting to ensure the protection of the rights of women and elimination of injustices women face in the society (Abdulhadi 175). Compared to male counterparts, women in the middle east have few rights which are regulated by men hence restrict them to what they do and how they do things. Women activists have been vocal to fight against laws that prohibit women from holding key leadership positions in these countries. If more women are allowed to keep key leadership positions, the rights of women will start to be upheld, and the situation will change to ensure more equality for all women in this part of the world. Many women in the middle east continue to fight for their rights, and this is through forming women rights groups, protesting and holding campaigns. Though they still encounter challenges from men, the situation is changing slowly, and within a period, women will have equal rights as men in these societies (Moghadam 5). Changing laws, sensitizing women and empowering the human rights group are some of the ways success in the fight for the rights of women in the middle east can be achieved.
Some of the major areas where women rights in the middle east have been violated include education, employment, ownership of property and domestic abuse.
Access to education has been a challenge for women living in middle east and during the past, it was only men who could access education. Women started to have access to education in the 1990’s, and the situation has improved which is a big step towards achieving equality, but in countries such as Egypt, education for women is still impoverished (Amy 250). Through education, women have been empowered to know their rights and fight for equality, and this can be attributed to the rise in debates on subjects such as work, marriage, seclusion, divorce, and leadership. Literacy in women has helped countries in the middle east grant women their rights as more women hold various leadership positions, can get employment and have right to make decisions on their own. Giving women access to education will also ensure they are qualified to take various job opportunities making them achieve economic stability and to stop being dependent on men to provide for their families and can fight for the rights of other women.
Though women have been given access to education, they have not been granted equal job opportunities as compared to men. In the few opportunities they are given, laws have been put in place which set strict conditions that govern the circumstances women are supposed to work and behave. This makes them be dependent on men to provide for their families but there is a fight for economic equality as human right activists, and civil societies have been fighting for equal employment opportunities. Labor laws in most countries in the middle east state that people of all gender should be allocated equal pay, training, and opportunities. This is not put into practice as women are paid less than men, they are treated differently in the workplace and are not allowed to hold certain job positions which is discrimination against women (Sofie 185). Laws also prohibit women from working at night, doing dangerous jobs and preventing them from joining some professions which are a violation of human rights. This is wrong because women should be given the right to make decisions, allowed to work in any profession and enjoy the same employment benefits as men. If women are economically dependent, they can be able to provide for themselves and their families hence giving them the right to make decisions on critical matters such as divorce and domestic abuse they face.
There has been a rise in cases of violence against women which include domestic violence and spousal rape, but laws enacted in these countries favor men. While in most countries around the world it is prohibited to abuse a woman, the case is different in the middle east. Most of the women who are abused usually cover up the situation, and it is left for the family to solve the problem so that they can protect the image and reputation of the family (Muneera 232). Lack of government accountability and laws to protect women’s rights in their homes makes women continue to suffer more. If domestic violence is reported to the police, women encounter difficulties as the officers will be reluctant to get involved in the case and most situations, women are advised to solve the problem through reconciliation with their husbands. Unless laws are formulated and implemented by the government, women rights in the middle east will continue to be abused through domestic violence.
Ownership of property.
Countries in the middle east are Islamic regions which are governed by Islamic laws. Religious beliefs, customary laws, and state laws have been a hindering factor which affects women rights on matters of ownership of property. Whether the property if tangible or intangible, the regulations do not favor women in cases of managing, owning, disposing or inheriting of property. Women who constitute most of the population in these countries are not given the right to own bank accounts, houses, animals, land, cars among others (Marjolein 126). Compared to other women in developed countries, this is a violation of women’s rights as they should be allowed to own property. If the situation is to change, laws will need to change which will involve scrapping laws that limit women to ownership of property. While efforts have been made to fight for property ownership for women in the middle east, those in rural areas are more isolated which makes the situation complicated. Property according to Islamic religion is equated to power; hence the more property one has, the more power they will have, and women are put under the custody of men.
In any society in the world, women play a very pivotal role in ensuring the economic, political and social standards improve. Restricting women their rights are a violation of human rights since men and women are equal, and the situation in the middle east is set to improve due to the rise in activists who fight for the rights of women. Women activist in these countries is fighting to improve their status which will include socioeconomic justice and creation of an inclusive political society. Some of the concerns on rights of women in the middle east include:
Lack of women in leadership positions.
The activists believe that if women are given more leadership opportunities, the situation will improve and they will be part of the decision making in these countries. The recent political uprising in the middle east has been one of the contributing factors to women achieving more rights as women joined the protests to oust their leaders. The revolution gave women courage and a better method of fighting for their rights and they are supported by women who hold leadership positions. In Saudi Arabia for instance, women defied the ban on driving and in the process, the country passed laws that allow women to drive vehicles. Also in Tunisia, women demonstrated against the draft constitution as it stated that were complementary to men and not equal and this forced for the law to be changed, and this has been examples of initiatives raised by women in leadership positions. Power has helped women in leadership positions are now fighting for the rights of the voiceless and oppressed in the society. More women in leadership positions will help fight for the rights of women and ensure change is some in these countries.
Reluctance by the governments.
Governments have been one of the impeding factors that prevent progress for rights of women in the middle east. Through the legislation passed, instead of addressing the inequalities faced by women, they repress the rights of women (Sofie 185). Despite the fight against domestic violence and marital rape by human rights activist, there are no laws implemented, and if they are present, they are not observed. If the governments enact laws against the oppression of the right of women, women will have more voice enabling them to report cases to the police and ensure prosecution for those who abuse women.
How can the situation be changed?
The following are methods suggested that can helped women in the middle east achieve rights and equality.
Give support to civil societies.
International organizations can help civil societies through providing them with both financial and tactical support. This will ensure that they will have the strength to fight for the rights of women and ensure equality is achieved in the middle east. Change should come from within as the civil societies are the ones who know the problems that women I these region face. They will ensure laws that have been repressing women since the past are changed, and new laws are put in place. They will also be the voice of all women in the society and ensure equality is achieved. Though hostility has been there from both the government and the people, the situation over a period will change.
Pressure mounted on governments.
The international community can mount pressure on the countries in the middle east to ensure they remove laws that repress the rights of women. This includes the state and customary laws, and this will empower women since they will have access to education, be granted equal employment opportunities and have access to ownership of property. Rules should also be put in place to ensure prosecution against those who violate the rights of women. This will ensure the promotion of women’s rights and the people will understand their responsibilities.
Sensitizing women on their rights.
Most of the women in the middle east do not know about their rights, and this is a challenge in their fight to their rights. Programs should be initiated by the civil society to educate women about their rights, and if women are aware of their rights, they will be able to challenge injustice in the society. Women knowing their rights will also ensure that they dare to seek for leadership positions and further fight for their rights.
In other parts of the world especially in developed countries, women have been enjoying their rights but that is not the case for women in the middle east. Success in the fight for their right came after a long struggle but at last, it was achieved. The process of achieving equality will take some time before it comes into effect and for men in the middle east to embrace the change. It will require one law after the other to be changed and the situation will improve. Over the years, change has been seen and more rights granted to women. In Kuwait, women are now allowed to vote and run for leadership positions, Saudi Arabia women are now allowed to drive cars and more women are holding various leadership positions in these countries. This has been achieved through activism by women’s groups and the civil societies in these countries. Changing laws will be one of the greatest achievement and ensuring laws are implemented to sure the rights of women are protected (Muneera 232). Despite all these efforts, social norms will also need to be addressed and make sure men support the fight for the rights of women and they will embrace any change brought forward. Gender roles will also need to be changed and ensure the Islamic religion also help in the fight for human rights in the middle east. More efforts also need to be put in place to curb domestic violence as it is still a common challenge facing women in the middle east. I believe that when women rights in the middle east are respected and equality is observed, it will lead to both social and economic success. In terms of population, women are more than men and if they are given rights, there will be competition which will force people from both genders to work hard making the economies in these countries to grow.
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Benschop, Marjolein. “Women’s rights to land and property,” in UN-HABITAT, Women in human settlements development – challenges and opportunities, New York: Commission on Sustainable Development. (2004): 126-128.
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