30 March 2010

Women's rights under attack -- as usual

"Eternal vigilance," it has been famously said, "is the price of liberty." That is certainly true for women. In the past month, various items in the news have revealed just how true.

The decline of women's rights in Iraq, for instance. After the Personal Status Law was enacted in 1958, when the British-installed monarchy was overthrown, Iraqi women enjoyed many of the same rights as Western women. But the statutes covering the status of women have been replaced by Iraq's new Constitution which states, "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." The undisputed rules of Islam will, of course, be interpreted by religious leaders, all of whom are men. According to Maha Sabria, professor of political science at Al-Nahrain University, "Iraqi women are struggling with oppression and denial of all their rights, more than ever before." She adds, "The real ruler in Iraq now is the rule of old traditions and tribal, backward laws."

"Tribal" and "backward" is also an apt description of Ukraine's new government. The new pro-Russian prime minister, Mykola Azarov, head of an all-male cabinet, has stated the country's economic problems are too difficult for women to handle. "Conducting reforms," Azarov observed, "is not women's business." The man who appointed Azarov, President Viktor Yanukovych, declared during February's election campaign that his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, should "go to the kitchen." A right pair of boors.

When it comes to achieving equality, or even respect, the line from the old folk rhyme is certainly true, "A woman's work is never done."

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