Blog Post #7

Women’s Day Protest in Tahrir Square

Gender and Politics in the Arab World

While it seems that there is not necessarily just one root cause for the treatment of women in Islamic nations, I have gathered that the teachings of Islam have little to nothing to do with the marginalization of women in Arabic nations. Looking back at the Arab Spring of 2011, it seemed like a moment in which women would be able to finally garner the equality they so deserved. In Tahrir Square women and men protested side by side, until things took a change for the worse. Increased political participation and public visibility by the women in Tahrir Square incited rage and violence among their male counterparts, and where at one point they were all fighting for a better and more fair country, women were now being beaten and stripped, harassed by the crowds. Some experts argue that this kind of treatment of women stems from the authoritarian governments that came into power after the fall of colonialism in the Arab world. Top-down state feminism was adopted by countries like Tunisia and Egypt.

After it’s liberation from France sixty years ago, Tunisia adopted the most progressive women’s rights legislation in the Arab world. The Tunisian Personal Status Code was introduced by the late President Habib Bourguiba in 1956, giving women the right to vote and be elected to parliament, equal pay and equal rights to employment as men, the right to divorce, abolishing polygamy, requiring a woman’s consent for marriage, fixing the minimum age for marriage at 18, and in 1961 abortion became legal in Tunisia. These advances in women’s rights were taken and twisted by the regime of Ben Ali, who used them as a cover for the human rights injustices he committed in his country. The rights of women became a political maneuver, and were controlled completely by the state, which was run almost entirely by men. This false liberation of women has created a backlash among societies that have removed themselves from the power of authoritarian regimes; women’s rights has become something that is associated with the old regimes, creating a connection between women and the repressive regimes of the past.

Following the ousting of Mubarak, politicians have called for repealing laws passed under the Mubarak regime that advanced women’s rights in Egypt (also known as ‘Suzanne’s laws’), such as decriminalizing FGM, disallowing women to divorce husbands, and take child custody rights from mothers. The Islamist parties proposed lowering marriage age for females to 9 and claimed that policies to eradicate violence against women and FGM clash with Islamic law.


This discovery has been by far the most interesting and disheartening one that I have read about during this few weeks of blogging. On the one hand, this idea is interesting, and the fact that it leaves Islam out of the equation is refreshing, and I believe accurate, but on the other hand, it seems that women’s exclusion from the political world in these countries for so many years has ingrained these traditional ideas into the minds of the people that surround them, leading to tragedy and repression.

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