a big year for women in the arab world
Last Updated : GMT 09:03:51
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Last Updated : GMT 09:03:51
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A big year for women in the Arab world

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Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today A big year for women in the Arab world

A big year for women in the Arab world
London - Al Maghrib Today

Reforms came in quick succession across Middle East countries this summer, sparking renewed optimism in the women’s rights community after years of setbacks.
In July, Tunisia passed a landmark law criminalizing violence against women and soon afterward governments in Jordan and Lebanon abolished legal loopholes enabling rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims.
In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia’s decisions to lift a longstanding ban on female drivers marked a turning point for women’s emancipation in one of the region’s most conservative countries.
For women’s rights activists, these reforms are a symbol of progress after decades of campaigns.
“It’s an indication that governments are changing their position toward women’s rights, albeit at a very moderate pace,” said Layla Naffa, director of projects at the Arab Women’s Organization in Jordan.
“After six years of closing the doors, a window of hope has opened and we will continue to fight the battle,” she said.
Speaking at a recent conference on violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Sara Fallstrom, head of the international department at IM Swedish Development Partner, said while these “major steps forward” are to be celebrated, “legislation alone is not enough to end violence against women.”
In patriarchal societies where gender inequality is ingrained across all aspects of social, economic and political life, the greatest challenge comes with confronting cultural conceptions of women’s roles and responsibilities.
“The law has an important part to play in changing behaviors and attitudes, however, the law is not enough,” Elie Kayrouz, a Lebanese MP said.
The legal environment may criminalize certain forms of violence against women, but it does not eliminate these practices from people’s mindsets, he explained.
Even with the necessary laws in place, women face hurdles at every level when it comes to reporting violence. Fear of bringing shame on their family and community — potentially inciting further violence — is compounded by the frequent failure of authorities to take complaints of gender-based violence seriously.
“Shame culture and stigmatizing the victim is a very widely spread phenomenon which is preventing most victims from reporting or seeking help,” said Asma Khader, former minister of culture in Jordan and president of SIGI, a women’s rights NGO.
“It’s not enough to have a shelter or a policy slogan, you need to make sure that the people who are implementing the support services and upholding the laws really believe in the concepts behind them,” she added.
Discussing the comprehensive new Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women in Tunisia, Amal Amraoui from Chouf Organization, an NGO focusing on women’s issues, said the next step is to raise awareness among a population with limited knowledge of gender rights.
“It’s a law that can protect women against violence but now we have to work on explaining it to people.”
“Having this law doesn’t mean I can take a holiday now. We have to finish this.”
The new ruling, which criminalized all forms of violence against women, as well as introducing penalties for sexual harassment in public spaces and fines for wage discrimination, was greeted with cautious optimism by activists across the region.
“By enacting this new law, the Tunisian authorities have shown a commitment to the rights of women and are setting a standard that many others would do well to follow,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia office director at Human Rights Watch.
“But other steps are needed for full equality. The government should now fund and support institutions to translate this law into genuine protection.”
Wafa Dikah Hamzeh, vice president of the National Commission for Lebanese Women and secretary general of the National Coalition Women for Politics, expressed hope that legal developments in Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon would have a domino-effect across the region.
To date, only a handful of Arab countries have developed national strategies for tackling violence against women, including Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
“In order to reach a comprehensive system of gender equality, we still have a lot to do,” Hamzeh said. “As long as there are discriminatory texts and legislation that consider women as second-degree citizens, there will always be violence.”

Source: arabnews

   
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