UNdoing International Women’s Day

Just in time for International Women’s Day on March 8, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has apparently decided that one of its most urgent concerns should be blaming Israel’s occupation of the West Bank for “degrading” the living conditions of Palestinian women. That’s perhaps a good occasion to highlight what the CSW prefers to overlook – so here are just a few of the “degradations” women elsewhere in the Muslim and Arab world have to endure.

Let’s start out with this report about a new survey on how the so-called Arab Spring has affected women in the region:

“In honor of International Women’s Day, Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, asked a cross-section of female scholars, activists, business executives, journalists, politicians, and officials to comment on how women have fared in the Arab uprisings. The answers, especially from women living in the thick of it in Middle Eastern countries, are depressingly negative–and sometimes scathing.”

Then there is the recent report that Afghanistan’s president Karzai has endorsed a “code of conduct” issued by a council of Muslim clerics that has been characterized by activists as “a giant step backward for women’s rights in the country.” In addition to severe restrictions for women’s freedom of movement, this “code of conduct” reportedly allows a husband to beat his wife as long as there is a “Shariah-compliant reason.”

While Karzai has claimed that the clerics “did not put any limitations on women” and that the “code of conduct” simply reflects “the Shariah law of all Muslims and all Afghans,” his endorsement of the document has been interpreted “as part of his outreach to insurgents like the Taliban.”

At this link you can watch a clip from 2009 showing Taliban beating a young girl; and here’s a clip that documents the fate of a woman in Sudan who was accused of having violated Islamic standards of decency by wearing trousers under her full-length overcoat.


Walter Russell Mead notes that Egypt marked International Women’s Day “by condemning the 1978 UN Convention Against Gender Discrimination as ‘incompatible with the values of Islamic sharia.'” Mead adds: “Need we tell you that the political forces behind this tastefully timed pronouncement were those empowered by the so-called Arab Spring?”

3 responses to “UNdoing International Women’s Day

  1. If one wants to get a very good understanding, as a non-Muslim, of what life in the Muslim regions is like for a woman – in particular, an American Jew who married into a prominent Afghani family in the 1960’s – and understand the nature of how and why Western intellectuals wrongly portray such societies, read The
    Death of Feminism, What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom
    , by Phyllis Chesler. It is a well worth your time. Her life in a purdah and the dishonesty of her colleagues in the US, among other things, are vividly portrayed and very well analyzed.

  2. If you want to get a short, good look at what life as a non-Muslim woman in a Muslim country, look at Lora Logan; she was sexually assaulted while the crowds shouted chanted ‘Jew’.

    The UN: Giving me a new reason to ignore it every week.

  3. But of course most non-Muslim women have a place to return to if they find life in a Muslim country unbearable, while Muslim women don’t have this luxury. Given the unbearable situation millions of women face, particular in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, they should actually all qualify for political asylum in the West…
    Another truly horrid issue I didn’t mention in the post is what happens to many of the African women who try to cross the Sinai in order to make it into Israel. There are many stories of horrendous abuse by Bedouins; to be sure, male African refugees don’t have it much better when they fall into the hands of these brutal gangs.

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