A platform for voices supporting women's rights
To give women equality, to not give women equality? That is the question. According to Foreign Policy, this is current debate in some Middle Eastern states, while others are just faking Feminism.
It is stated that the Middle East is increasingly divided into two camps – those countries that are good to women and those countries that are not good to women. It seems that governments showing even a modicum of acknowledgement for women’s rights are flying under the autocratic radar in comparison to strict Islamist states. Morocco and Qatar are two such states that have been praised for their “progression” in regards to women’s rights, but upon closer examination, it seems their feminist musings are all fur coat.
It appears that some Middle Eastern states simply offer a few females in powerful positions and roll them out to the media in order to provide evidence of a commitment to women’s rights and gender equality. Bahrain’s Sameera Rajab, minister of state information and official spokesperson, has been thrust into the spotlight and promoted in an apparent effort to establish her alongside some the region’s most powerful women. But this has been criticsed as an effort to portray a fictitious “liberated arab woman”, projecting a false commitment to feminist values.
The reality of the situation for women in “feminist-faking” countries has changed very little. In Bahrain, women are still paralysed by restrictive income inequality that has seen little real commitment or progress. Despite the country’s image as extremely wealthy and economically strong, women continue to suffer under a class-based system that leaves the rich-poor divide impermeable and access to capital virtually non-existent. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights‘ report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), “Women [in Bahrain] have been the victims of power struggles, sectarian differences, mismanagement of the government, and unfair distribution of national wealth and resources”. Further to this, women in Bahrain have suffered state repression, violence and even death. One woman was shot dead for driving a car by the Bahrainian military – a crime that has yet to find a perpetrator – as well as countless women who are in prison for staging peaceful protests against the regime.
Whilst we should praise genuine progress and commitment to women’s rights globally and understand that what seems to be small advances can sometimes be huge milestones, we should be wary of empty promises aimed at appeasing the international community. Real change takes real commitment and whilst developed states in the West know that gender equality can sometimes appear elusive and unattainable, progress requires effort and leaders should be made more accountable to their gender equality promises.