Equality of Men and Women in Middle East Countries
Gender figures and social parameters will show that women in the Middle East are deprived politically, economically and socially compared to their counterparts worldwide. Arab female populations are not represented properly in governance and confined by family laws. On the other hand, men are considered superior to women and possess more rights in the Gulf region. It is important to look at gender equality in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.
The United Arab Emirates espouses equal treatment for all citizens. However, it does not tackle issues on gender-based bias specifically. The UAE Constitution bolsters customary gender roles instead of advocating fairness between men and women in the Emirates. It also gave approval to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women or CEDAW in 2004. In this country, the capacity of women to exercise their rights depends somewhat on their legal status. A big portion of the female populace is composed of foreign career women living at the UAE for the time being on employment contracts.
Meanwhile, Dubai Ruler and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid reiterated the UAE will initiate a helpful environment for women to perform their roles as key partners in nation building. Sheikh Mohammed lauded the capability and achievements of Emirati women in different fields of expertise during the initial meeting of the United Arab Emirates Gender Balance Council.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is acknowledged for elevated levels of gender disparity. This gender segregation and severity on women is documented properly even if not widely publicized. Oppression against women of Saudi Arabia is evident in the following:
· Women must wear the Islamic headscarf (Hijab) in full. Only the eyes and hands should be visible.
· The rule of sex segregation is strictly enforced in public places, offices and eating places. High-quality facilities are reserved only for men.
· Women can only travel if accompanied by male relatives. It is only in this country that females are prohibited to drive vehicles.
· Women can be lashed and jailed for committing adultery or becoming victims of gang rape.
· Female students are deprived of educational opportunities like studying law and engineering even if the literacy level of women is higher than men.
This is a bleak scenario especially from the point of view of Westerners. It highlights that Saudi Arabia espouses a social system where men dominate and prevent women from getting equal opportunities that men are given.
While Saudi Arabia has a high GDP (#56 in the world), it is down to #135 in terms of the Gender Equality Index. It has a long way to go for improvement unless the government eliminates its practice of gender apartheid.
Kuwait already declared its commitment to put into action the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as a means of achieving gender impartiality, protecting women and fortifying their rights. It also seeks to do away with all forms of discrimination against the female gender.
Just recently the Kuwait News Agency reported that Third Secretary Kuna Sultan Al Aradah, a member of the social, humanitarian, and cultural committee, conveyed the Kuwaiti government’s statement during a speech for the Kuwaiti Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Kuwait is eager to contribute financially and spiritually to support activities of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. This comes from the belief in the essence of women empowerment as well as improvement of their civil, social, political and economic rights. This is a positive reception of the role of UN Women in controlling gender equality issues, protection of women’s rights and bolstering international collaboration.
On the national scale, Kuwait made efforts to strengthen women empowerment by sustaining their political rights in voting and supporting their roles in areas of decision-making. Accomplishments in empowerment include laws relating to crime punishment and equal pay for women performing the same work as men.
Just like most Gulf and African nations, Qatar had a very low score in the Gender Gap Index according to data provided by the World Economic Forum. Qatar had a very good performance when it comes to providing equal educational prospects for women. However, the gap in compensation between men and women is quite large. Women in this country have the right to run for office and vote. Qatar is the first country in the Gulf to give all citizens the right of suffrage.
Qatari women have embarked on meaningful legal and social progress since the nineties. Sheika Mozah or Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, daughter of Nasser bin Abdullah Al Missned is one of the three wives of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, former Emir of Qatar. She has been a staunch proponent of women’s consultations, opportunities for advanced education and creation of cabinet-level position in the Kuwaiti government that deals with women’s concerns.
Bahrain holds the distinction as the only Arab-Muslim country to have one of its women-citizens as president of the United Nations General Assembly. It has a higher ranking in terms of equality between men and women. Moreover, Bahrain’s women progressed well in health and education. They did better than their male counterparts in secondary and higher education but scored poorly with respect to political participation. This happened despite the election of Bahrain's first female deputy to the Lower House of Parliament.
These conditions in the top six nations of the Middle East prove that gender equality needs a lot of modification and improvement.