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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Women's Rights in the Wake of the Arab Spring

At The Philadelphia Inquirer is a column by Trudy Rubin on the question of the future of women's right in the wake of the Arab Spring and the new government's coming to power.  The recent elections in Tunisia puts an emphasis on this issue.
I'm not talking of women in Saudi Arabia, where they are still fighting for the right to drive and are relegated to segregated workplaces, but of countries where working women have long been the norm.

Thousands of women took part in Egypt's Tahrir Square demonstrations, and young Tunisian women played a major role in their revolution.  In Egypt, middle-class women have long held professional jobs.
The focus is on Tunisia and Egypt and the Ennahda Party and the Freedom and Justice Party (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood):
Yet now that the Islamist party Ennahda has won a plurality in Tunisia, and the Freedom and Justice Party (a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot) is set to do likewise in Egypt, many active women in both countries are nervous.

Leaders of both these Islamist parties insist they won't reverse women's progress. Whether they keep their promises will be the litmus test of whether they are as moderate as they claim.

The pledge to respect women's rights appears much more credible in Tunisia. Ennahda party leaders insist they support the family status law that bans polygamy and gives women the right to divorce, get child custody, hold property, work, and travel. Indeed, Ennahda's top leader Rashid Ghannouchi told me in an interview that he would try to expand the law to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work.
I would hope that the United States would not greet new governments in Tunisia and Egypt and elsewhere with approval if those governments were slipping away from freedom for women.

Regards  —  Cliff

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