Friday, March 05, 2010

Freedom for women increases in Arab world, decreases in PA territories

From Freedom House:
Despite continuing resistance from religious and cultural elites, women in the Middle East and North Africa have made modest progress in achieving certain rights over the past five years. While women in the region suffer from greater inequality than do women elsewhere, they now enjoy more economic opportunity, fewer barriers to education, and expanded ability to participate in the political process than they did five years ago. These are the conclusions of Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance, a new study released today by Freedom House.
“These findings remind us of the complexities of women’s status in the Middle East,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “There are more women entrepreneurs, more women doctors, more women Ph.Ds, and more women in universities, than ever before. However, substantial roadblocks remain for women pursuing careers. For instance, women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to earn law degrees, but not to appear in court on behalf of their clients.” She continued, “and these same women are still subject to abuse at home, lack child guardianship rights, and are legally compelled to be ‘obedient’ to their husbands.”

According to the study, 15 out of the 18 countries in the region recorded some gains in women’s rights over the past five years. Kuwait, Algeria and Jordan saw the most significant progress while Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories—countries enduring internal conflict and the rise of religious extremism—are the only countries to record overall decline.
The Palestinian Arab author of the Palestinian Territories report, of course, blames Israel for much of the decline in the scores since 2004. Some of her "facts" about Israel are complete fiction. For example:
The increased number of checkpoints over the last five years and the construction of a West Bank separation wall,[4] which is over 50 percent complete, have worsened social and economic conditions for all Palestinians. In particular, women now experience further separation from their families, farmlands, water resources, schools, and hospitals. When the wall is completed, it will stand eight to nine meters tall and stretch more than 700 kilometers, adversely affecting the lives of an estimated one-third of the Palestinian population in the West Bank.[5]
I don't have specific numbers (and neither does she), but I would wager that the number of checkpoints has decreased in the past five years, not increased.

There is no doubt that the economic conditions of West Bank Palestinian Arabs have become much better in the past five years, so she is lying there.

Her "source" for the claim that the wall will be 8 to 9 meters high across all 700 kilometers, B'tselem, says no such thing, and in fact most of the barrier is a fence, not a wall. Indeed, B'Tselem calls it a "separation barrier," not a wall.

Even worse, her quote from B'Tselem that one-third of the PalArabs are adversely affected by the barrier is an outright lie. Her link shows that B'Tselem generously counts about 11% of the PalArabs as being affected, not 33%, and up to half of them are questionable (counting communities that are "partially surrounded" by the fence, where it is unclear that it affects their lives at all.)

She does blame Hamas for much of the decrease in women's freedom in the territories, however, and also mentions honor killings and the legal protection for those crimes.