Equality/Women’s Rights

Women's Day Spotlights Barriers in Middle East

Friday, March 12, 2010

International Women's Day this week gave women in the Middle East a chance to review some significant achievements. In rebuttal, Nadya Khalife says too many governments in the region restrict a wide spectrum of women's rights.

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Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

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Freedom in Marriage and Divorce

In a region in which so many women and young girls are pressured to marry someone chosen by their families and in which there is so much violence against them, it is critically important for them to be able to make decisions freely about entering into marriage and to have equal rights to divorce.

Mothers should have equal rights to custody of their children and be able to make decisions in the best interest of the child, a right that is still almost exclusively afforded to fathers.

Women need to be protected from all forms of violence and to know they can seek redress. That means repealing numerous provisions in penal laws that sanction the murder of women and girls, which is still too often seen as a private matter. The same is true of protecting them from rape or any other form of abuse in marriage.

Women can now start looking forward to next year--March 8, 2011--and hope by then for greater cause for celebration.

This will occur if our governments take urgent steps to meet their commitments under the treaty to end discriminatory policies and to promote women's human rights.

Otherwise, the treaty will remain a piece of paper instead of a beacon of hope.

Nadya Khalife is the Middle East and North Africa researcher in the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. She has a Master of Arts degree in gender and cultural studies from Simmons College in Boston and a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from Virginia Wesleyan College.

For more information:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:

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