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Arab women’s rights between cultural legacy and social reality


Al Hayat newspaper published an article by an Egyptian journalist addressing the two recent progresses scored by Tunisian women, particularly on their rights for equal inheritance with men and freedom of marriage to non-Muslim. The journalist made a comparative approach involving the practical and real life aspects, and not from the perspective of Sharia. He focused on two specific sides: first, the cultural legacy cumulative of social interactions and traditions passed over the years, and secondly, the social reality of Arab women. In his definition of cultural legacy, religion represents only one component of social culture, he wrote, giving the following example to support his statement. Women in many Muslim-majority Arab states do not inherit half what men inherit or sometimes do not inherit at all! This, he argued, is not due to religious considerations, but lies at the heart of the prevailing social norms. Regarding the social reality component, the journalist noted in his analysis that in light of the economic and demographic factors, major changes occurred in Arab societies, notably the massive migration in search for employment. In most cases, migration was meant for men only, which led to an increased economic role for women, knowing that remittances sent were not enough to sustain the emigrants’ households. The Egyptian writer further noted that in Arab societies where women have become the first economic catalyst and the real breadwinners for their families, the sense of injustices have become more complex. The demands of Arab women in general, he concluded, transcend the issue of inheritance, or rights related to marriage itself, and even go beyond religious texts. The issue is rather the result of interaction between cultural legacy and the reality of social life, a fact not to be denied or ignored. (Al Hayat, September 11, 2017)

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