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Women's Rights in the Middle East

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Women's Rights In The Middle East

The question of the ability for the west to promote women's rights is a central question of the promotion of human rights as a whole. The criticism of the west taking such an action is not an argument against women's rights but one of the west taking such actions. It is my contention that such an action would be counterproductive to the movement to eliminate patriarchy. Moreover, the problems with patriarchy in the west get worse and only make our efforts ineffective at addressing problems.

The thrust of efforts to promote women's rights is to create equality between males and females. Many of the scholars that support these actions reference things like the inability for Saudi women to receive a driver's license or the clothing limitations of many women in the Middle East. While these are horrible injustices these countries do not stand alone in their patriarchal actions. In the same way the west is guilty of patriarchy. Many western countries still have businesses that have what has come to be known as the glass ceiling in which women cannot progress in their careers. Even the rhetorical choices of many words like "bitch" or "whore" are obvious indicators of underline sexism in the system. Even the ayatollah of Iran has gone as far as calling out the west for such values, according to a BBC Middle East article. The fact that other countries recognize this means that efforts by the west to influence the Middle East in the area of women's rights would be ineffective at best. If other countries believe that we have problems with the promotion of women's rights then the west criticizing the Middle East is on seen as hypocritical in the eyes of leaders there.

Attempts at promoting rights in the past have not managed to get anywhere. There have been movements all throughout the world in recent years to attempt to remove structural problems with women's rights. In an essay detailing the recent actions to create equality for women Pinar Ilkkaracan noted:

Four UN conferences held in the 1990s--the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, the 1995 Beijing Conference, the1999 five-year review of the ICPD (ICPD-H5), and the 2000 five year review of the Beijing Conference {Beijing-f-5) witnessed the Catholic and Muslim religious right engaging in unprecedented cooperation to oppose and restrict women's right to control their bodies and sexuality.

Because there is such opposition from the religious right it is impossible for western action to overcome the current problems with women's rights. At the same time though women across the globe have joined together to form multiple international coalitions in order to combat the problem of women's rights in the middle east, and have seen changes in many countries but also the language that is used in international law (Ilkkaracan).

The west has also often celebrated many instances of women's rights that has upset middle eastern leaders. In March of this year the many media outlets celebrated the fact that women and the Middle East had began to wear bikinis and opened their own brothels; this was met with an immediate backlash against attempts to push women's rights onto the middle east (Raymond). Because the west is both seen as an equal abuser of women's rights and celebrates such things as aforementioned it actually causes the Middle East to regress in the area of women's rights as there is increased pressure. When there is criticism it causes political paralysis in this area. Pressure being seen in a hypocritical manner leads to countries no longer caring about the actions that would be taken, Moreover, if the end goal of such actions is to promote equality, and these actions do the inverse, then the results are an independent reason to not do them. Rights for women are an indefinite need in any culture and thus we should stray away from doing actions such as criticizing the Middle East due to their ineffectiveness and the way in which they affect the total movement of rights promotion.

There is a time and place in which the west would be in the position to criticize the Middle East for their problems with women's rights but that time is not now. If the west were able to have true equality for both men and women, and also be able to deploy their criticisms in a constructive manner then the criticism would be effective. Unfortunately there seems to be no end to patriarchy anywhere. It seems that patriarchal mindsets are inevitable due to how deeply ingrained they are in the human psyche. Numerous structural changes in government would have to be made in order to approach overall equality between men and women would be able to reach equality. A solution must also be found to fix the sexism that is in the west that many people both do not recognize or believe is something that needs to be dealt with.

Those in favor of criticism often argue that the criticism from the west is the only option for promoting women's rights in the Middle East. This is simply empirically denied. There have been multiple public statements and indictments from the west towards the Middle East with no prevail. In fact the Middle East as a whole has only gotten progressively worse in the area of women's rights as a whole since the west began trying to enforce the protection of women's rights (Kurlantzick). This is not only an indication that



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