An unseen burqa revolution
from the May 11, 2009 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0511/p08s01-comv.html
Gains among women in Muslim nations, while still uneven, are important to recognize.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board
Every year brings progress for women's rights in Muslim nations, though the advances are often obscured by smoke from explosive news reports suggesting the opposite.
This spring, black billows literally rose from Pakistani girls' schools – burned by the Taliban. A new Afghan law that amounts to sanctioned marital rape of Shiite women brought loud protests from NATO countries.
In Arab countries, women have the world's lowest political participation rate and high rates of illiteracy.
But this is not the whole story. That is why it's so
important to recognize victories large and small – from the women who gained 25
percent of the seats in
More recently, Freedom House, which tracks liberties around
the world, found that six
But gains are uneven across and within countries. In 2006, Kuwaiti women voted and ran for office in local and national elections for the first time. Saudi women still can't vote. Moroccan women have financial rights in marriage and divorce thanks to a 2004 law; but 10 percent of marriages still involve minors, and now the push is on to change that.
The West has inspired women in Muslim countries to assert
their freedom, and President Barack Obama has an opportunity to carry this
inspiration forward with a major speech to the Muslim world in
If women's rights and interests are to significantly advance, the drive for that has to come mainly from the Muslim world itself. Pressure for change is evident – from both the top and bottom, from grass-roots women's groups as well as first ladies. Scholars of Islam are showing women's rights to be in harmony with the Koran. Greater access to education and the workforce is increasing a desire among women for more opportunity and independence.
And the Internet is playing a large role: In
The Afghan law may have caused an uproar in the West, but,
wonderfully, it did in
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