Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Good news, if by the slimmest of margins

A report out today by the Freedom House finds that women's rights in the Middle East have moderately improved in the last five years. It reports that 15 of 18 countries have seen improvements. You can read the full report, broken down by country, at their site.

For reference, the 18 countries in the study are Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (women in picture), Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Some of the findings (here, here and here):
  • The most significant progress came in Kuwait, Algeria and Jordan.
  • Only Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories recorded an overall decline in women's rights over the past five years.
  • Among the 18 countries surveyed, women enjoy the greatest degree of freedom in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.
  • Women in Yemen and Saudi Arabia lag significantly behind.
  • Among the 18 countries surveyed, only Tunisia and Jordan offer specific legal protection against domestic violence.
  • Women in Kuwait received the right to vote and to run as candidates in elections in 2005. Four women were elected to parliament last year, a first in the country.
  • In Iran, since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, restrictions on attire and gender segregation in public places have been more strictly enforced and restrictions on free speech have led to the closing of women's rights publications.
  • In Iraq, honor killings, rapes and abductions escalated significantly over the five-year period. And yet, women hold 25.5 percent of the seats in parliament.
  • In Bahrain, the first female judge was appointed in 2006 and the government rescinded a law requiring women to gain a male guardian's approval to obtain a passport.
So, definitely some progress, and some is better than none, right? The sad part is how basic some of the "progress" is. Like the right to vote. Or the ability to leave your house without a male guardian (which women in Saudi Arabia aren't supposed to do.) So much work still needs to be done, and hats off to every woman in these countries who is working for progress. I can't imagine how difficult it is, especially when stories like this one are reported seemingly every day.

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