Islamic women’s groups are voicing their outrage at a growing system of gender apartheid in the Muslim world. During the weeks preceding International Women’s Day, Muslim women throughout North Africa spoke out on television and in their communities.
Wassyla Tamzali, an Algerian lawyer and expert in Muslim women’s rights at UNESCO, commented, “Islamic countries have modernized many laws -- in the economy, education, commerce, politics, you name it .... But there is practically no movement in the status of women. When it comes to women’s rights, religion and theology are invoked.”
As families flock from rural areas in the Mediterranean countries to the cities, more and more women are attending universities to earn jobs as doctors, lawyers and businesswomen. But laws denying equal rights to women make surviving in the workplace, or as a single mother, increasingly difficult.
Fundamental Islamic policies in Iran and Turkey dictate what women can wear. In Afghanistan, women face punishment by death if they do not follow a dress code. Laws have been issued that prohibit the women from working outside the home or going out in public without a father, brother or son.
In Morocco, a woman cannot marry, name her children or go to work without the permission of a male relative. Moroccan women inherit half of the property and money that male siblings inherit, can be forced to marry or participate in polygamy and are routinely beaten.
Nouzha Skali, a pharmacist from Casablanca, said, “Legally we are still as helpless as the illiterate girls on the farms.... We are legal minors, and we depend on permission of our fathers, brothers or husbands.”
Many Muslim women’s groups are working to institute fair divorce and child-custody laws into civil law, rather than in the Mudawana, Muslim family law. Although a million signatures were collected in 1993 supporting reform, the changes actually enacted by male policymakers have made little difference.
Tamzali commented, “Muslim feminists have long argued that it is not the religion but the male interpretation of the Koran that keeps women oppressed, along with the texts that were added on in the Middle Ages .... So the way to reform had seemed to be to re-examine and reinterpret the religious texts. But efforts to reform Islam from within keep failing.”
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .