When discussing women’s rights and equalities in the world, many people will point towards the Middle East as a place behind in the fight. However, while the fight for equality is nowhere near finished in the region, there have been multitudes of improvements via acts and laws that better protect women.
Unfortunately, much of the world seems to forget about these developments and sees the region as still behind, even with hundreds of people currently fight to increase their rights. As misconception runs rampant, it’s more important than ever to highlight the progress made for women’s rights in the Middle East, and to see that such hard work accomplished by many passionate and brave women.
One law passed just last year in 2017 was the “Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women” in Tunisia. The law abolished the clause that allowed rapists to escape punishments if they married their victims. With Tunisia having one of the highest domestic violence rates in the world — 47 percent of women experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetimes — this was a huge win for the country.
Along with this, Tunisia passed a law later in the year to allow Muslim women to marry men belonging to any faith. Before, Muslim women in the country were not allowed to marry non-Muslim men unless the men converted their faith. These are just some of the progress made for women’s rights in the Middle East.
In line with Tunisia, Jordan also called to repel their “Marry the Victim” laws, which also allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims. While the law still needs to go through parliament, the talk of repelling it in court last year lead to thunderous cheers from the spectator’s gallery — an action that illustrates how bringing the issue to attention was a large and important step in the right direction.
Saudi Arabia has also made progress in women’s rights in the Middle East. In 2017, the country announced that women would be allowed to have physical education in state schools; in addition, the ban on women not being able to drive will be lifted summer of 2018.
While these laws are huge steps in gender equality, there still lies deeply rooted stigma against women.
Saudi Arabia promised to abolish laws regarding its male guardianship system, where state agencies are prohibited from requiring male guardian permission from women (if not required). However, many employers still still ask for these permission slips before hiring women, even when such actions are unnecessary. Along with this, women still need male guardian permission when applying for higher education, marriage and traveling abroad.
Progress With Room to Grow
From equal marriage laws, to protecting sexual assault and domestic abuse victims and overall freedom for women, these laws can play a huge part in ensuring more equality for women in the Middle East.
While work is not finished and women are still persecuted, arrested, harassed and murdered, the women of the Middle East are fighting together to create change. Just like the countless women walking together hand-in-hand across the world, all of these changes will come together to create a stronger and safer world for women.
– Marissa Wandzel