Challenging Inequality

| Tue Oct. 18, 2005 9:15 PM EDT

I don't know how recent this is, but Sameena Nazir of Freedom House has written a very thorough overview of the bleak state of women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa that's worth a look.

As one might expect, repressive laws are generally the biggest problem in the region; on this score, it looks like Morocco rates the most liberal country, especially after passing its new family code early last year, but laws usually aren't enough. As Nazir points out, "Most countries [have] guarantees of equal rights, [but] in no case are these guarantees effectively enforced by state authorities." And there are plenty of other ways in which laws can fall short of guaranteeing equality:

Many women suffer from a lack of awareness of their legal rights under the country's family law. For example, under Muslim family law, the marriage contract generally contains a section that allows each spouse to stipulate in writing his or her specific rights in the marriage. This feature gives women the theoretical ability to achieve equal rights within the marriage. In practice, however, this feature of the marriage contract is seldom utilized, either due to illiteracy or lack of familiarity with the available legal options or due to patriarchal social traditions under which it is the prerogative of the bride's male guardians to finalize the conditions of the marriage contract. Governments in most countries do not engage in public education campaigns on women's rights in the marriage.
Definitely worth reading the whole thing.

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