"Unprecedented Feminist Activism in Arab Countries"

Human Wrongs Watch

Amman, 8 March 2013 – Arab women are once again taking a step towards equality, addressing the social and institutional forces that are colluding to exclude women from the process of change and political transition in the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region, says the Amman-based Foundation for the Future* (FFF).

Source: Foundation for the Future

Source: Foundation for the Future

“On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we especially honor Arab women’s continuing struggle for freedom and equality, and note that women’s status in the region has not improved in the past year.”

Today, the Foundation for the Future bears witness to an unprecedented feminist activism, one which is united in decisively denouncing patriarchal aggression and demanding full inclusion for women in the emerging democracies.

Institutionalized Sexual Aggressions

The Foundation for the Future is also speaking out against the institutionalized sexual aggressions that Egyptian women have been suffering lately, aggression that is met with total impunity.

At the same time, we condemn laws that continue to denigrate women’s status, including laws that promote early marriage in Saudi Arabia and Yemen or allow rapists to marry their victims to avoid jail.

The Foundation calls for the defense of public spaces and insists that the question of gender not be relegated to a secondary priority in the reform process, because without women’s equality, democratic society is impossible.

The Foundation reiterates its unwavering support for each and every one of the women that are joining the cause every day.

This support is not reserved for traditional civil society organizations, our partners, and networks that are working to safeguard women’s progress,  but is also extended to the incredible spontaneous feminist movements that have exploded into the political scene.

The revolutions and the winds of change in the region have not favored the bettering of women’s status, but Arab women have still managed to achieve humble legal and political changes.

Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco…

For example, we have seen massive protests in Tunisia and Egypt of women opposing any constitutional draft that did not guarantee women’s rights.

In addition, the Moroccan feminist movement has organized itself against the law that allows rapists to avoid jail if they marry their victims, visibilizing the situation and recently succeeding in reforming the law.

Most importantly, however, these actions have mobilized women that had never before participated in politics and have opened a public space for women that they will not soon give up.

We would also like to emphasize the remarkable efforts of women in the Gulf, where isolation has served to silence news about the worsening situation of women in those countries.

Nonetheless, we are starting to hear various voices speaking out against these abuses, and their efforts are slowly changing society.  Saudi Arabia, for example, has permitted for the first time women’s inclusion in the Shura Council.

Our call for equality extends to the entire Broader Middle East and North Africa region, even to Pakistan and Afghanistan, critical countries where the Foundation is deeply involved.  In 2012, we heard the sad story of Malala Yousufazi, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for daring to claim her right to education.

Path Towards Equality, Long and Hard

FFF reiterates its condemnation of any violence against women perpetrated by radical groups.

After reflecting on many negative trends of 2012, the Foundation emphasizes that while the path towards equality is long and hard, we are convinced that the emerging feminist activists we support will succeed in building the basis of a true egalitarian democracy.

In going forward, Arab women must be careful to build national, regional and international coalition and networks. Solidarity with other women’s movements is essential.

Women in the region need to achieve consensus on common issues and build coalitions to ensure that the promises that politicians made to gain women’s support during the transition are actually translated into concrete action.

We need new blood and new expertise, and an elite women’s movement has to become a popular one. We need to bring young women and men to our cause. We have to invest in social media and create transnational campaigns for women’s rights.

*Source: Foundation for the Future. Go to Original. The Foundation for the Future is an independent and multi-lateral non-profit organization which is fully committed to supporting initiatives by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) aimed at promoting human rights, democratic governance, and reform in the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region, while respecting the cultures and traditions of individual countries.

2013 Human Wrongs Watch

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