Inequality, discrimination, and shame seem to have become the way of women’s life. And if we use history as an indicator of trends, situations may change for a while but eventually, old habits die hard. A case in point is the never-ending subjugation of women: Subjugation that deprives her of her social, economic, civic and political rights. Pretending otherwise is an understatement.
But why is that so? Fact is that women generally bear the heaviest burden of marginalization and exploitation by society as a whole. Women account for the highest statistics for illiteracy, hard labor, abuse and lack of material and other resources on international charts.
Back in the 80s, and for the first time in our modern day history the United Nations made public this gross injustice in a mind-shattering report. In its most basic form, the report states that women make up half of the world’s population and are responsible for more than one-third of the world’s working hours. Yet in spite of this hard labor, they only receive only one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one hundredth of the world’s property.
Having exposed these hard facts, the global community finally raced to “fix” this injustice. In 1995 during the Fourth World Conference on Women, the “Empowerment” of women was taken up on the global agenda and thereby became the single most pressing action leaders had to undertake if the goals of equality, development, economic prosperity and ultimately, world peace were ever to be achieved.
But try as we all may, the task of fixing this social ill is not only challenging but quite impossible since it is deeply rooted in a culture founded on fear and sustained by male hegemony. In fact this culture has been prevalent over time and across societies not just Arab or Islamic ones.
Cases in—point are many but to name just one, we can look back into the Dark Ages of Western societies. At the time, any woman who dared to “think” or “lead” or “innovate” was feared and immediately condemned. History has shown that such women were publicly labeled as “heretics” and “witches” and were put to the stake to burn to death. Men on the other hand who dared to “think,” “lead,” or “innovate” would be labeled as “sages” and “heroes” and would be granted titles of “knighthood” or any other prestigious position to mark their contribution and valor.
Women in my part of the world have also been victims of male supremacy and idiosyncrasy. Women are subjugated and marginalized and discriminated against not only by law but also by the man-made decision to pass that law into the holy fabric of our belief system: Islam
The core essence of Islamic justice is to erase all forms of discrimination, injustice and supremacy. However our Noble Shariah has been highjacked by those in popular power and this situation has been boiling for some time. Society in general is in conflict and the ones controlling this distorted ideology will have the upper hand at how things will eventually turn out. If this is the case, then will we ever be able to turn back?
Published in the Saudi-based Arab News on May 31.