Why Arab Spring Wasn’t Really Spring For Women In The Arab World

Arab Spring was a huge revolution in that part of the world, but how much has really changed for Arab women? Find out.

Large societal changes mostly appear after generations of struggle and it is beyond the bounds of reality to expect them overnight; yet they do happen. Swift socio-cultural transformation in mankind is always guided by a radical political environment and a mass popular revolution; which is often catalysed by violence.

Similar was the philosophy of the ‘Salafi’ school of teachings; they originated in Egypt, sometime at the end of the 19th century to bring in modern trends in Islamic civilizations. However, later they took an ugly turn and changed into radical jihadi ideology. True ‘Salafism’ once again resurfaced during the Arab Spring, the popular revolution which started in Tunisia in December 2010 and engulfed most of the Arab World.

It succeeded in overthrowing anarchies, brought in regime changes, cajoled the existing social medians and created new political realities which were supposed to bring in a societal revolution commensurate to the level of the event. More than half a decade on, not much seems to have changed for the veiled softer sex of the region. A post-mortem of the aftermath suggests that the upheaval had only broken the outer shell; the core socio-cultural structure of the Arabia has largely remained unaffected and so has been the existence of a female in their society.

Success of any revolution is not measured by its ability to destroy the existing scheme of things, rather it is its ability to build a better destiny. Arab Spring eliminated and cautioned the dictator regime in these countries, but failed miserably to reform the thinking of the society, their cultural inheritance and the legal framework for the womenfolk. A women’s status benchmarks the well-being of a society and any socio-political process cannot be considered complete, if it doesn’t include women; or seeks to provide them justice and ends their exploitation; or doesn’t give them rights equal to men. All these collectively provide them equality, justice and dignity.

It’s not that nothing has changed and not all Arab countries have similar norms. I have been to Saudi, Oman, Jordan and UAE, and some of the cruel realities (although not in all countries) which I have noticed are…

  • Prejudice against women’s personal rights and freedoms.
  • Rape victims are forced to marry their rapists and she can be prosecuted for adultery.
  • Marital rape, unnatural intercourse and domestic abuse is not recognised.
  • Husband is allowed to punish his wife in public. I was shocked to see a man beat his wife in a shopping mall.
  • No legal minimum age for marriage and no reproductive rights.
  • Female genital mutilation so that she cannot experience an orgasm.
  • Cannot get a passport or travel abroad without a written consent from the husband.
  • Not allowed to drive.
  • Inequality in court of law where the testimony of a man equals that of two women.
  • Cannot sit with men in public transport.
  • Must cover their entire body and face in public.
  • Divorce is a unilateral verbal decision.
  • Not allowed to pray in mosque.

These oil driven economies have made considerable progress in terms of infrastructure, quality of living and material benefits, but still women are seen as an incapacitated creature, an unwanted form of life which has to submit to every tutelage of the male dominant society, a source for sexual amusement and a machine to produce unlimited offspring.

The Arab Spring has gone down in the history as a mega revolution, yet it wasn’t springs for women in Arab World.

Image source: flickr, for representational purposes only.

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I'm an Army wife, balancing my life as a homemaker and an IT freelancer.

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  1. Sonia Robert Chaavara -

    The only way forward in all societies where we see gross gender bias and inequality of status of women is universal female literacy and education, right to property and means of livelihood. When women are empowered to be equal only then can respect and dignity also follow.

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