Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The treatment of Muslim women

The treatment of women around the world still raises hot debates around the world regardless of religion or the political system. Women are still fighting for equal rights and protection from sexual harassment and violence. There is a difference between legislating equality or laws that give women a dignified status in their societies and the implementations of those laws.

In Europe women still need further empowerment as key posts in governments or corporation boards are still heavily dominated by men. Italy is a case in point.

Talking about the treatment of Muslim women, this should be dealt case by case. There are Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia where women have to live under the tutorship of men throughout their lives regardless of their education or age.

Why can’t men in Saudi Arabia allow the world to see Saudi women? Are they too beautiful so they are jealous about them? Or are they such ugly that they are ashamed the world will know about them? Are they too deficient in intelligence that they can’t have common sense and they are likely to tarnish the reputation and the honour of their male relatives? I simply wonder.

Women are badly treated because of the mentality of some men who see themselves as superior and that the women are deficient both in religion and intelligence.

The most horrific threat waiting for women in countries like Jordan and Syria is the killing of a woman by a close relative to save the family honour if found out having a sexual relationship outside marriage or simply suspected of doing so. In this society the killer can spend a prison sentence no longer than a year. That’s the kind of the worst treatment a Muslim woman can come to. Here is an article on BBC website about this issue.

It’s hard to generalise that all Muslim women are badly treated because of the customs and the laws. There are some Muslim countries, like Morocco where they are enjoying more freedom compared to women in countries like Saudi Arabia where a woman can’t do anything without a male tutorship.

There are other countries like Morocco where male tutorship has been abolished in all matters that concern women at the age of consent. Women here are free to travel abroad. They don’t need the consent of a male tutor to get a passport or a visa. They can travel inside or outside the country for studies, tourism or work. (You can see even some women among the illegal immigrants trying to cross from Morocco to Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar.

They are now free to choose their husbands. They no longer need the approval of a male relative. In the government there are now seven women holding positions from ministers to secretaries.

But this doesn’t mean it’s all white and black here. There is still the mentality that has more influence than the laws. Some women are still “coerced” to conform with traditions when it comes to relationship. It is still a shame for a woman to have a child out of wedlock as she can’t openly have a partner she can live with without a marriage contract.

A visitor to Morocco can notice the dichotomy of traditional women as well as modern ones in terms of appearances, behaviour and education. There are still those who believe in the right of men to dominate their lives according to their interpretations of religion.

On the whole the treatment of women depends on societies and communities. There are women who see no harm in getting a controlled treatment in all aspects of their lives. But there are those who are challenging such views citing women from past Islam eras who had their influence in their tribes or societies.

But it isn’t just how women are treated in their societies. It is how all members of societies are treated. Many societies still suffer from nepotism and a class system that put both women and men in awkward situations. Women can’t stand up to men. Men can’t stand up to change the system making them feel second class citizens in their countries. It’s a vicious circle that needs to be redressed by both men and women alike.

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