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Gender Inequality in the Arab World

Islam itself does not require repressing women. But throughout history male leaders in the Arab world have associated patriarchal gender roles with religious purity.

Despite what most of the Western public opinion believes, the gender cultures that can be retrieved in the Muslim-majority countries differ across societies and the status of women varies. Clerics, who have significant social and political influence in the region, enforce

conservative readings of Islamic law that subordinate women.

Majority of Arab Men Think Women’s Right Place is Home and Don’t believe in Equality:

A study has found that only one in four men in the Arab World and the Middle East believes in equality between genders.

The study, undertaken by the International Men and Gender Equality Study in the Middle East and North Africa, revealed that young men in the Arab world are as conservatives as their fathers.

The survey was conducted on nearly 10,000 individuals, both men and women from Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Palestine; their ages ranged between 18 and 59. The vast majority of them held conservative views regarding women, believing that they are not capable of being leaders and belong in their houses. They also believe that education is important for boys more than girls.

The opinions of the majority of women interviewed were in line with their male counterparts; they agreed that their most important duty is at their houses.

The study also revealed that in some Arab countries, up to 90 percent of men believe that they have the right to control women’s clothes and how often they should have sex.

The majority of men who agreed to have a female boss, however, believed that it shouldn’t alter the fact that men should still be the breadwinners and women can work as long as it doesn’t have a negative effect on their family duties. They have also shown a low progressive attitude towards women having the final word regarding decisions made at home.

According to the study, the males’ view could be a result of the economic turmoil that usually leaves young men struggling to find jobs and unemployed, so they feel not empowered. Unemployment was cited several times as the reason behind the conservative views.

High rates of domestic violence were also revealed by the study, about 45 percent of men show violent attitude towards their spouses. More than half of the surveyed men believed that women deserve to be beaten sometimes.

Women were not so different, they also didn’t show progressive attitudes towards their social and economic rights. However, young women were more to defend their rights and equality compared to older women.

In Egypt, findings of the study show that the patriarchy is alive and well, in both public and private life. Both men and women, on the whole, hold inequitable attitudes about the rights and responsibilities of women compared with those of men.

In Morocco, it showed vast gap between public and private perspectives. “Masculinity and the patriarchal mindset. It affects men, as well, because the norms or the roles assigned to each sex, at the heart of society, are disadvantageous,” according to the study.

In Lebanon, the study showed some levels of support of gender equality. Also, many male respondents report putting more equitable ideas into practice.

In Palestine, findings indicate that the division of labor in the household still reflects inequitable, gendered power relationships.

“This inequitable division of housework puts a greater burden on women, hindering their involvement in societal or political issues and maintaining their marginal position within the family and society,” according to the study.

10 worst countries of gender equality

  • 8.South Korea.

  • 7. Morocco.

  • 6. Egypt.

  • 5. Oman.

  • 4. India.

  • 3. Saudi Arabia.

  • 2. Qatar.

  • 1. United Arab Emirates.

In recent years, the emphasis in the Middle East concerning women’s rights has shifted to promoting women to leadership positions. This is a laudable goal for governments and women’s organizations in the region.

But it is not enough. The main problem for women in the region remains the Family Law, which is based on shari’a and defines the status of women in the family and in society. Although family law varies from country to country, it remains an impediment to equal rights for women region-wide. It disadvantages women among other things in matters of divorce, child custody, inheritance, the age of marriage for girls, freedom of movement, and access to education and employment.

The countries of the Middle East are not homogeneous—in terms of politics, economics, or laws affecting women. In a number of countries, the issues of women in leadership positions, equality under the law, or even access to schools for girls are hardly relevant because women are struggling for basic survival.

Unless countries in the Middle East decide to revise their family laws, women’s rights and equality under the law will continue to be a mirage, no matter how much women and especially the younger generation pushes for change.

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