Wednesday, May 27
Latest News
  1. Turkey says training of moderate Syrian rebels begins with US
  2. Pro-government fighters push rebels out of Yemen city
  3. Police: suspected Fulani herdsmen kill at least 23 in central Nigeria
  4. Obama: Russia adopting 'increasingly aggressive posture' in Ukraine
  5. Washington Post reporter stands trial in Iran for spying
  6. Austrian 14-year-old jailed on 'terrorism' charges
  7. Saudi beheads 88th person, exceeding last year's total
  8. Charter buys US giant Time Warner Cable in $78.7 billion deal
  9. Diplomat: France suspends security cooperation with Burundi
  10. Libya tribal chiefs meet in Cairo peace initiative
  11. Alleged UAE killer of American 'aware of her actions'
  12. Britain and Russia agree to resume talks on Syria
  13. Fierce fighting in Yemen as peace hopes fade
  14. Russia, Iran talks on S-300 missiles end in 'success'
  15. Washington Post reporter stands trial in Iran for spying
  16. Iran denies agreement on military site inspections
  17. Saudi Shiites prepare mass funeral for bombing victims
  18. Fierce fighting in Yemen as peace hopes fade
  19. Israel ex-PM Olmert sentenced to 8 months for corruption
  20. Iraq PM rebuts US criticism of security forces

Activists: Arab spring to take years to improve women's rights

Dec. 5, 2012 12:33 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 5, 2012 12:33 A.M.)
By: Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) -- The Arab Spring has failed to deliver greater political power to women in the region or to offer them better protection from sexual harassment, but may yet yield female-friendly reform, a conference on women's rights heard on Tuesday.

Human rights campaigners had hoped that women's involvement in protests that toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen and overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in Libya would lead to more power for women in Arab states.

The uprisings unseated a string of autocrats and triggered some change, including relatively free elections. But two years after the first uprising erupted, activists said women had seen precious few gains and that the rise of Islamist governments in the region was fuelling concern about growing conservatism.

Sally Moore, an activist from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, described recent changes in Egypt as "alarming", saying a proposed constitution drafted by only men would endanger women's rights and social justice.

The draft constitution will be put to a vote on Dec. 15.

"It feels like two years have gone by and with all these sacrifices for nothing," she told the conference, organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Herald Tribune.

In Egypt, a quota for female representation in parliament has been abolished, while in Tunisia, quotas mean that 30 percent of assembly members are female. However, local rights groups complain that women ended up with only a handful of posts in a transitional cabinet of over 40 ministers.

Recent episodes of sexual harassment in Tunisia and Egypt, and the handling of these incidents were also of deep concern, women's rights activists said.

In Tunis, hundreds protested in September after a woman was accused of "indecency" after allegedly being raped by police in a car park, while female protesters demanding an end to sexual harassment were attacked in Cairo's Tahrir Square in June.

'Tentative optimism'

Despite the dearth of progress, activists said they still expected change to come as the Arab revolutions had mobilised women in the region for the first time, with technology and social media dramatically increasing their access to information.

Atiaf Alwazir, an activist and blogger from Yemen, said this was the first time so many women from so many different backgrounds had joined demonstrations.

"The majority of women out on the streets were average women, women from the villages, and outside the political elite. That is what makes this revolution so special," said Alwazir whose country has just one woman in its 301-member parliament.

Campaigners accepted that meaningful change could take years however.

Alaa Murabit, founder of The Voice of Libyan Women organisation, said she had initially written the Arab Spring off as a disaster but that her view had changed since women had made up 51 percent of voters in Libya's election in July.

"Women are now getting involved and taking the initiative," she said.

Jordan's Queen Noor, widow of King Hussein and an international humanitarian campaigner, said the lack of progress for women so far should not be deemed a failure.

"All revolutions, as sudden as they sound, rarely produce results immediately. Momentum builds over time. It can take years or generations," Queen Noor told the conference.

The rise of Islamist governments was not the primary concern because Islam was not the source of misogyny and female oppression, she said.

"The primary danger to women's advancement is not religious but economic and social", she said, referring to traditional customs and societal views.
Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015