Category Archives: Gender in the Middle East

Population and forcible birthcontrol

In 2013 it was reported that Israel’s African female refugee population was given no option but to take the depo shot as a form of birth control. The idea was to forcibly keep the population in control. The article in from 2018 brings up the murmurings that from the U.S. recent involvement with Israel the refugee’s may be forced to leave the country.

This article brought up a long argument that I have had with my doctor and my friends have had with theirs, how in control are we as women over reproduction? Either through lack of education, lack of resources, or my favorite argument “you’ll change your mind and want kids later.” These women had their control taken from them and it is unclear if they even understood all the ramifications of taking that particular form of birth control.

My question is do you believe they should have given the refugees an educated choice to take the birth control(which is every 12weeks and can take up to a year to fully exit the system) or brought up safe sex practices to let women have the choice to have a family when they want?

https://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/01/28/israel-foribly-injected-african-immigrant-women-with-birth-control/#4b5f6ca967b8

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/01/israels-treatment-of-african-refugees-should-be-an-international-scandal

Child Marriage in Afghanistan

By Asha Allamby

Soon to be wed Faiz Mohammed, 40, and Ghulam Haider 11, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Stephanie Sinclair)

 

Beaten, molested, and imprisoned. These are just a few of the consequences that are all too familiar among child brides in Afghanistan. The majority of these girls have been married off before they are legally able to do so, as was the case with Ghulam Haider pictured above. The combination of poverty and limited education are just a few factors driving the high rates of child marriage in Afghanistan.

Child marriages continue to thrive in developing countries in the African and Southeast Asian regions of the world. Despite efforts from Afghanistan’s government to establish a legal age at which girls can marry, the tradition of child marriages continues to flourish. A girl may be married off young due to costs of bride price, dowry or to settle a blood feud. After decades of war, many Afghanistan families find themselves severely impoverished and feel that their daughters are a financial burden. They may choose to marry them off young to receive a bride price or to pay a low dowry to the groom and his family. Some families cannot afford a dowry so they exchange young female members of the family in an act known as badal. Lastly, when girls are given to other families to settle a dispute, the act is known as baad. This is considered one of the most abusive customs towards young girls. In- laws take out anger on the young bride because she is a constant reminder of a family member they lost.

One of the major hurdles in tackling child marriage in Afghanistan is attempting to close the loopholes around the age for which a child can marry. The laws currently allow a girl to get married as young as 15 with parental consent. Even so, how is it possible most girls get married before the age of 15?

Afghanistan is considered an Islamic state meaning it the government is influenced by Islam. In the Quran, Islam’s religious text, a child is suitable to marry after her first menstruation. The problem arises when a girl as young as 9 has her first menstruation. She is then considered old enough to marry, even to someone old enough to be her father.

Unfortunately, data on child brides can sometimes be hard to retrieve as marriages do not have to be registered to the state in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, 40 percent of girls are married between the ages of 10 and 14. In extreme cases, they were married to someone 50 years older. Once married, child brides often become victims of domestic violence from their spouses and in-laws. They are beaten, raped, neglected and subjected to servitude. If they run away, they may be subjected to imprisonment. Each year 2,400 women turn to self- immolation to escape their abusive husbands. Child brides have profound impacts on their health physically, sexually and psychologically. Child marriage is a clear violation of human rights.

Because Afghanistan is a patriarchal society, men dominate every aspect of women’s lives. This results in child brides not being able to finish their educations. They are cut out of the public sphere and socializing with people their own age. Men, whether their husbands, brothers, or fathers, determine if a child will receive adequate health care during the time of child birth. A girl’s lack of access to health care is particularly alarming during child birth because she is five times more likely to die if she gives birth before she is 15 years old. Child marriages and reduced access to health services has a direct link to the child being malnourished or premature.

One solution to ending the child bride epidemic would be to identify where girls are more at risk of being forced in child marriages so that prevention programs could be started. Additionally, it is imperative that Afghanistan’s government and religious leaders condemn the practice. Child marriage is also continuing to be a viewed as a women’s issue, deterring men from stopping the practice. Men and women alike must be educated about the harm of child marriages. There are currently two organizations dedicated to fighting against forced child marriage. One is Save Your Rights (http://www.saveyourrights.org ), which works internationally, and Women for Afghan Women (http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org), which works on a broad agenda of women’s rights within Afghanistan. Check them out if you want to get involved.

Asha Allamby is a graduating senior at East Carolina University with a major in International Studies and a minor in Ethnic Studies and Sociology. She intends to get her MS in Social Work so she can further assist disadvantaged minority populations in the U.S and abroad

How One Girl and a Bicycle are Promoting Women’s Autonomy in Saudi Arabia

 Review of the film, Wadjda, by Haifaa al-Mansour

Lizz Grimsley

Ten-year old Saudi girl, Wadjda, is best friends with a boy, wears blue jeans and sneakers under her abaya, and longs for a bike. She is the subject of strikingly different kind of film about Saudi women, written and directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, Haifaa al-Mansour. This film illustrates the influential role of the media on social institutions and the ways that it can impact how people view the world and think about their cultures.

Saudi Arabia is known for a strict interpretation of Sharia law that oppresses women by denying them the same freedoms and rights as men. As a result, Saudi women have had difficulty breaking out of the restrictive walls built around them. However, Haifaa al-Mansour, shows how the media is capable of challenging oppressive gender roles. It follows the story of a young girl who is interested in purchasing a bicycle that she has seen at a store in her town. Though she is faced with criticism from her family and peers, it does not deter Wadjda from finding ways to save money to purchase the bike. We are also shown an interesting friendship dynamic between her and Abdullah, a young neighbor boy with whom she spends a great amount of time with throughout the movie. As the film progresses, she navigates though her relationships with authority figures in her attempt to understand the world around her. As a result, Wadjda is placed in many situations that alert her to the roles and behaviors traditional Saudi culture views as appropriate for women and girls.

Saudi women have been oppressed by legislation that has denied them the same freedoms and rights as men. This form of systematic oppression has also been responsible for the harsh gender roles and the general mistreatment of women. As a result, Saudi women have little autonomy over themselves or their family units. However, the tides appear to be turning. Windsor reports that In September of 2017, women in the kingdom were finally granted the right drive, and in March of 2018, women who have been divorced were given the right to retain custody of their children without needing to file a lawsuit. But these changes alone are not enough in the fight for equality.

To show audiences the true nature of oppression that exists in Saudi Arabia, al-Mansour uses symbolism throughout the film. One example of this, according to al-Mansour herself, is the bicycle: it is an object that is meant to represent freedom. It is the freedom of adulthood and the freedom of women as separate beings from their male guardians. Thus, Wadjda’s attempts to purchase the bicycle are attempts to gain freedom and control within her own life. By creating an ending where Wadjda owns the bicycle, al-Mansour leaves the audience with a message of hope that things can change for women in Saudi Arabia. Though this is only one interpretation of the film, it has seemed to have a positive impact on the Saudi people. Nikki Baughan quoted al-Mansour in her article, The Reel World, saying “I have a lot of positive feedback from young Saudi women; it means so much to me when they say how much they loved and related to the film.”

As a Saudi woman, al-Mansour had the best knowledge on how to approach the issue of promoting women’s rights. She stated in an interview with Nikki Baughan, “If you try to be confrontational or scream at them about how stupid you think they are, you aren’t going to get through to them. You have to be respectful of the world they come from and present your ideas through that prism.” She said that she wanted her film to reach the average Saudi person, and she knew that she would have to organize her methods in a way that would not deter them. Al-Mansour emphasizes the importance of approaching this social issue with caution instead of as an outsider. Her identity was beneficial in that it allowed Saudi people to trust her and the message she was trying to portray in her film.

Thankfully, her hard work has paid off. Saudi women flocked to watch the film upon its release in 2012 by traveling outside the country. Al-Mansour’s sisters thought the film was “authentic” in the way it depicted the average life in Saudi Arabia. If the goal of the film was to change the perceptions of women and break away from traditional views of women, then Wadjda did just that. As the world inevitably progresses, so do countries like Saudi Arabia. Through social media and educational programs that send their citizens abroad, Saudi people have the opportunity to witness other cultures on a global scale. These interactions will inevitably cause ripples that will disrupt the traditional views imbedded in Saudi cultural practices. Women are being represented in government, legislation is changing, women are being represented in films that point out the flaws of their society. Change may come slowly and with resistance, but with people like al-Mansour advocating for women and girls, their voices are being given a platform that they have never had before.

 

Lizz Grimsley is a senior at ECU majoring in Sociology and minoring in Anthropology. She plans on graduating in May and has hopes to join the Peace Corps shortly afterwards. She is particularly interested in social issues and understanding how different media sources influence social norms and beliefs surrounding marginalized groups of people.

Saudi Women Gain Custody Rights

A couple of students in the anthropology class are writing about images of women in Saudi film and about progress in women’s education in Saudi Arabia. It was just announced a couple of days ago that Saudi women will not have to go to court to petition for custody of their children in event of a divorce. These petitions in the past could take years to be decided. This is a major step forward, but it does not negate the underlying rule, based on tradition, that custodianship goes to the father by default. Nonetheless it is progress and it comes in the wake of the earlier decision to allow women the right to drive. We may not think these changes are happening fast enough, but Saudi women have been working hard to make them happen.    –Holly Mathews

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/12/middleeast/saudi-arabia-custody-law-intl/index.html

Working towards ending FGM

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50015&Kw1=Genital+Mutilation&Kw2=Women&Kw3=#.VfDCr_lViko

February 6 of each year is “The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.” This article highlights efforts of the UN in educating communities about the myths and negative outcomes of this procedure still common in several African and Middle Easter countries in both Muslim and Christian communities.

FGM has many serious short – and long-term health consequences for girls and women. This year’s theme was “ending the ‘medicalization’ of the procedure.” FGM, even when conducted by a medical workers, is harmful to girls and women; however, as these workers become better educated about the negative consequences of FGM, some are beginning to refuse conducting the procedure.

I “just” wanted to point this out…

As students — many of whom will be scouring the job market for opportunities in the near future — we are often preoccupied with the written and spoken language that we use; not solely for the numerous research papers, essays and presentations we are responsible for producing over the course of our educational careers, but because we are aware of the value judgments people make about our dialect and our prose.

How many of you have dedicated an immense amount of time to making sure the carefully-crafted letters and e-mails you send to peers, colleagues and future employers are “just right” before pressing send? We check and double check spelling and grammar, we make sure we use tone that’s appropriate for the intended recipient, and we fire away. Whether we speak on the phone or in person, we tend to be more careful about the words we use because unlike written language — which we are typically free to edit until we are satisfied with the final result — there’s no “taking back” spoken words (or the inflection behind them) when you’re trying to quickly convey a message or attempting to prove yourself worthy to someone whose approval matters to you. We think about our word choices — some people even code-switch between the dialect they use naturally versus the dialect they use in a professional setting — and hope that we aren’t coming across in a way that misconstrues our intent or puts us at risk of negative evaluation.

However, have you ever considered that even the subtle, seemingly innocent word choices you make may be stripping your words of their full power?  Ellen Leanse thinks so.  In her latest article — It’s time to stop using ‘just’ in your writing and speaking (published today at Ragan.com and in its original version located at Women2.com) — Leanse charges women with using the word ‘just’ as “a ‘permission’ word.”

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a “child” word, to riff Transactional Analysis. As such, it put the conversation partner into the “parent” position, granting them more authority and control. And that “just” didn’t make sense. … I began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite. It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

Upon noticing the prevalence of the word “just” in the e-mails sent by women at her company, Leanse decided to conduct an informal experiment in which observers listened to a six-minute conversation between a man and a woman about their respective business startups — each had three minutes to speak — while the observers tallied the amount of times they each used the word “just.”  The man used it once; the woman used it either five or six times.  As Leanse states, this experiment was “not research: it’s a test that likely merits more inquiry.”  Until a formal experiment is conducted, I urge you to inquire within yourselves.

Look through your e-mails and text messages.  How often have you used the word “just” in an attempt to sound friendlier or non-demanding?  You may be unconsciously asking permission for your thoughts and words to be validated by others, which can diminish the impact behind them.  Ladies: it is time to stop diluting our convictions, our lofty goals, and our grandest plans with the constant use of what otherwise would continue to be considered an innocuous four-letter word in a sea of written and spoken communication.  I “just” thought you should be aware of your own authority and the power it holds when you wield it with confidence.  Laura Redman

Egypt’s Brotherhood Blasts UN Women’s Document

Sarah El Deeb’s article discusses the opposition that a UN Women’s document has received from the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt. The group has opposed this document because of clauses within it that they consider incompatible with the tenants of Islam. Actual details of the document have yet to be released pending negotiations. Officials are remaining optimistic that the document will pas, but there is speculation that Egypt will seek the choice to opt out of sections of the document before passing it. Libya has also publicly rejected the document. Egypt has called for an amendment to the document before they would approve it. Issues lie in the differences in interpretations of ideologies of Islamic law. The rise in Fundamentalist groups as a result of protests and political upheavals in the region has led to more traditional interpretations as well as an increase in violence against women. Women activists have responded on both sides, some agreeing with the document and others with those who have challenged it. Issues between differences in interpretations have created contention amongst Politicians and activist who have called for stronger protection and enforcement of rights for women. Shannon

Article

Mona el-Tahawy on Lack of Women’s Progress and the Firestorm that followed

Here is an article that appeared in Foreign Policy, which sent Twitter, FB, and all forms of social media buzzing:  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us?page=0,0 discussing “the real war on women.”

For an example of a response, see http://neocolonialthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/a-response-to-mona-el-tahawy/

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