Women and the Arab Spring: Taking their place?

Women, alongside men, participated in the protest movements that shook the Arab world in 2011, demanding freedom, equality, justice and democracy.

“Women, as well as men, paid and continue to pay a high price for their struggles. Today women must be able to play their full part in building the futures of their countries,” declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. Women’s participation in public and political life, on an equal basis with men, is an essential condition for democracy and social justice, values at the heart of the Arab spring, she added.

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The changes sweeping the region, which in some countries have transformed the political landscapes, present real opportunities for women to push for their rights. Yet they also present risks of regression.

“Demands for equality tend to be set aside, while the efforts of protesters focus on bringing down regimes and dismantling oppressive state institutions,” stated Sophie Bessis, FIDH Deputy Secretary General. “Recent history painfully reminds us that the massive occupation of public space by women during revolutions, in no way guarantees their role in the political bodies of the regimes that follow”.

Read the 20 measures for equality: http://arabwomenspring.fidh.net/index.php?women-and-the-arab-spring-20-measures-for-equality

Although the situation of women varies across the region, threats to their human rights converge. In countries in transition, women are confronting attempts to exclude them from public life. In Egypt, there were no women in the two committees appointed to draft the new constitution. A new law abolished measures guaranteeing women minimum representation in parliament and women gained only 2% of seats in the recent elections. In Libya, the electoral law adopted by the National Transitional Council in January 2012 contains no quota for the representation of women in elected bodies. In Morocco, a law adopted in October 2011 established a quota of only 15% and in Tunisia the 41-member government nominated in December 2011 contains only 3 women.

“At these times of great change and as conservative forces appear to be growing in strength, it is vital that steps are taken to establish and protect equal rights between men and women, as the very foundation of democratic societies,” concluded Khadija Cherif, FIDH Secretary General. “To the governments of region and the international community, we address this message: the rights of women are a priority and must be at the core of political reforms”.

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