Arab Barometer Polls Algerians on Women’s Rights, Religious Observance

Article Summary
An opinion poll conducted by the Arab Barometer reveals that a majority of Algerians is against women serving as the head of state, but support their right to work. Responses to other questions reveal more modern attitudes than anticipated on religion, dress, marriage and divorce.

Specialist from the Arab Barometer conducted an opinion poll dated 8-24 May 2011 on the Algerians’ political, religious and economic leanings. The poll was conducted while major changes swept the Arab world. At that time, Algeria was rushing to undertake reforms, resulting in the revision of four institutional laws originally included in the constitution, as well as the promulgation of others.

The poll, which was carried out by Algerian researchers, covered the entire country and took into consideration age, sex, region, and level of education. The poll was limited to six essential questions:

1. What are the economic challenges faced by Algerians?  2. What do Algerians think of public institutions and how do they evaluate them? 3. What is the role of women in society and how are they viewed by it? 4. What is the Algerian opinion on certain religious values and practices? 5. What do “citizenship” and “rights” mean to Algerians? 6. What do Algerians think of public institutions, and do they trust their efficiency?

The majority of respondents, 55.7%, said that they were against the election of a woman as head of state or prime minister, while 41.4% do not mind that a woman hold such high posts.

These results were similar to those of a poll conducted in 2006.

People in rural and urban regions shared relatively similar views regarding the role of women in society and how they are regarded by it. In this case, the poll was not based on age, educational level and region.

27% of women are for women holding senior posts. Over a third of judges in Algeria are women, we are told by to the poll.

When asked about a woman’s right to work, 64.2% of respondents were in favor, while 31.2% stood opposed. Regarding polygynous marriage, 32% of Algerians are in favor if the first wife approves, while 8.6% are against, and 20.3% support the enactment of a law prohibiting polygyny.

35% of respondents believe that women should enjoy the same right as men to opt for divorce, while 21.3% are against this proposal. 53% of women believe that they have the right to reject men chosen for them by their families.

In brief, the Algerian populations’ responses regarding marriage reflect a certain modernity in their character, despite the weight of religion and customs rooted in their society. Some traditional communities still maintain “a conservative culture” regarding women.

Regarding views on [Islam’s prescriptions] concerning modes of dress, 81% identify themselves as following these prescriptions. 50% believe that [the decision of whether to follow these prescriptions or not] is a personal choice. 40% feel that women should dress modestly, but that the Islamic veil is not obligatory. 20.5% percent of Algerians say they are pious Muslims; 60.6% do not consider themselves very religious; while only 14.6% said they are non-practicing Muslims. 59% of Algerians consider that religion is a private matter, but 21% disagree.

When asked if Muslim citizens must be granted the same rights as non-Muslims, 18.5% of respondents agreed, while 60.3% opposed this statement. On bank interest, 31% see no disadvantage, 39.7% are against it, and 22.2% said they do not feel involved in polemics related to religion.

20.5% are in favor of games of chance, while 47.4% oppose them. 26.8% say they do not spend their money on games of chance as they believe that luck is not their side. 83% of Algerians believe that abandoning prayer - whether by men or women - is a disadvantage in marriage, while 12.9% see no disadvantage.

39% do not consider wearing the Islamic veil to be mandatory, as long as dress is modest, while 21.7% disagree. 9.1% do not believe that democracy is opposed to Islam while 44.6% believe that it is, and 11.1% consider that Islam and democracy are contradictory.

Found in: women’s rights, women, social attitudes in algeria, religion, polygyny, opinion polls, muslim veil, marriage, islam, human rights, democracy, arab barometer, arab, algerian society

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