After the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, part of the larger Arab Spring movement, the progressive laws enacted by the new government led Tunisian society to believe that they were making strides towards a more equal balance between men and women. However, six years after the revolution, it seems that women have been left behind in this progressive wave. Although on paper, Tunisia is the most forward thinking Arabic country when it comes to equality, issues with long standing patriarchal values still stand. In 2016, The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women came out with the statistic that nearly 70% of Tunisian women are still victims of domestic abuse. Women continue to feel oppressed and without a voice, many suffering in silence, or anonymously. In 2014, Tunisia passed a constitution that guaranteed full gender equality, but it has become obvious that enacting these laws and provisions has no bearing on what has been ingrained into society for so many hundreds of years. These cultural norms go both ways; with men being taught that they are superior, and women being taught that they have less value than their male counterparts, or that they are worthless without a husband. How can Arabic countries move away from these deeply ingrained ideals, and where exactly do they come from?
Examining the gender gap in Arabic countries, religion is the first thing that comes to mind in regards to the reason for such inequality. However, that does not seem to be the root cause for the mistreatment of women. The archaic laws and practices regarding women in Islamic countries, (male ownership, genital mutilation, early marriage, education restrictions,) are actually in opposition to the teachings of Islam. The focus for promoting gender equality needs to be on education; without which women cannot advance economically. We are seeing that reflected in Arab countries, where high rates of gender inequality coincide with a lack of economic opportunities among women. The share of women in GDP in the Arab region is only about 29 percent, against 50 percent in all developing countries. And the poverty rate is 31.6 percent among women, but 19 percent among men. Without economic freedom, women become stuck in a cycle of relying on men, furthering the gender gap, and enlarging the problem of women’s rights in Arabic countries.
This issue is so complicated and vast, without a clear beginning. It seems that the actual religious texts of Islam do not promote inequality; they actually foster the idea that women and men are equal in spirituality, and serve to support each other in life. I am curious to find out where exactly these ideas became so distorted, and how Arabic countries have found themselves in this position.