Women’s Rights, Post-Arab Spring

Article Summary
Badria Abdallah al-Awdi praises the role played by women during the Arab Spring and discusses the repercussions of these revolutions on the status of women in the Arab world. She calls for a conference for Arab women to discuss how women’s rights can be protected and advanced in the post-revolutionary phase.

Since 2011, the winds of change have swept through the Arab world. These winds have had various effects, not limited to the overthrow of Arab dictatorships. The toppled Arab regimes were hiding under the cloak of formal democracy in order to promote autocracy in their nations, benefiting their personal interests and those of the few men and women who supported them. Meanwhile, other Arab nations rushed to take sovereign decisions intended to achieve more progress on human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens. These countries also felt the need to keep up with the recent developments in this region, which continues to witness political, social, and legal instability both at the domestic and international levels.

We should first praise the positive role of women in the Arab Spring. Women have worked alongside men to achieve change through their participation in the daily demonstrations that resulted in the toppling of the ruling regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Syrian women continue to participate strongly side by side with men in the revolution against the ruling regime. They are sacrificing their own lives and those of their children and husbands to get rid of the dictatorship that is systematically employing means prohibited [under international law] to suppress the peaceful demonstrations.

Concerning the events that have recently taken place in the Arab region, Arab women are, like everyone else, entitled to raise questions:

What are the repercussions of the Arab Spring for women’s political and human rights going forward? Will they be given equal weight to men in political decision making, so as to break the traditional patterns and conditions that control Arab societies? How will the Arab Spring affect the social, economic, and humanitarian situation of women at the national, Arab, and international levels? Is it possible to amend or repeal national laws intended to impede the success of women in various fields? [These amendments should be made] without politicizing fundamental human rights for the benefit of personal gains or so as to improve the international image of the government, as was [previously] the case with the majority of the Arab regimes.

It is worth noting that it is still too early to determine the impact of the Arab Spring.  The future of women’s rights is still vague. Hopefully, we will not wait long before women begin to actively participate in public life and become equal to men in politics. Many women are currently living in a state of silent fear about the possible negative impact of the Arab Spring on their human rights. They are considering ways to minimize the negative repercussions at the cultural level both within their countries and in the region as a whole. How can one utilize the positive effects of the Arab Spring to benefit human rights and move away from discrimination? Action should be taken before the Arab Spring grants men more fundamental rights [than women]. For this reason - and before it is too late - we propose holding an Arab conference for women to discuss the repercussions of the Arab Spring on their political and human rights.

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