Gender Discrimination has always been a rather pressing and important matter which has been discussed by many around the world but was never given the care and true value it deserved in the Middle East for example. While it is true that in some countries—mainly developed countries—women have become equal to men (and they fight to preserve their rights), many more still remain unequal.
In Saudi Arabia, a woman cannot sue a man for raping her and a wife must speak with her husband before doing anything. In Yemen, a woman is considered to be only half a witness. In the MENA region, the number of stateless individuals is growing – for example, the ones who do not possess nationality due to numerous reasons like stateless parents, failure to register for citizenship, and gender discriminatory laws. Because of the lack of documentation linking them to the current state they live in, these individuals are deprived of the rights that are handed to an individual with a nationality, such as the issuing of birth and marriage certificates as well as schooling and work. The situation gets worse when gender discriminatory laws and customs reproduce statelessness in new generations, who are unable to live a decent life and pursue their ambitions.
A report published by The Women’s Refugee Commission and the Statelessness Program of Tilburg Law School examines the relationship between gender discrimination and statelessness in the Middle East. In this report, four countries (Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Morocco) were picked as case studies to be able to explain the different aspects of gender discrimination and statelessness. It examines the effect of statelessness on processes of life, such as starting a family, which stateless individuals are often unable to do due to lack of documentation, lack of financial resources and inability to find partners. The report also examines the effect of statelessness on family (dis)unity and property rights. Importantly, there is also a discussion of the psychological well-being of individuals within families suffering from statelessness, and this discussion includes both those who are stateless and those who hold nationality. The writers of the report also offer several important recommendations to states, civil society, and international organizations, to improve the situation of stateless individuals.
There is a direct link between gender equality and the well-being of children. With gender equality, the survival and development of the child is guaranteed. Women and children can benefit from gender equality. Women who are educated, healthy and more importantly empowered, have children who are educated, healthy and confident. Gender equality will not only empower women to overcome poverty and live full and productive lives, but will better the lives of children, families and countries as well. Women’s equal rights and influence in the key decisions that shape their lives and those of children must be enhanced in three distinct arenas: the household, the workplace and the political sphere. A change for the better in any one of these realms influences women’s equality in the others, and has a profound and positive impact on child’s well-being and development. Other than being morally right, gender equality is crucial to human progress and sustainable development. Promoting gender equality and empowering women will help with overcoming other issues such as poverty, hunger, saving children’s lives, improving maternal health, ensuring universal education, etc.
I do believe that it is time for women—and whoever believes in their cause and in human rights’ cause in general—to fight against gender discrimination in the Middle East. Let it be time to end the suffering, the sadness. Time to move aside the inequality to make room for equality. It may be a long shot but women in the Middle East should unite and protest (whether on the streets or online via social networks). It is time to make a collective statement. Through unity comes strength and power and only through unity comes VICTORY. Let it be known that Middle Eastern women have much to present to their countries and to the world.
- PDF File: Our Motherland, Our Country