Monthly Archives: February 2010

Women have equal rights, seriously?

By: Alexandra Kinias

Mona, a very sweet teenage girl, had many dreams for the future. Growing up as the only daughter of businessman Ali Omar and his elegant wife Nadira, Mona enjoyed a perfect life by all means; attended a private school, met her friends in the club, drove her own car, and enjoyed the love of her parents. It was lonely sometimes being an only child, but she found good company with her little puppy that she adored.

Not in her wildest dreams had she imagined that this beautiful life would be shattered to pieces when her beloved father perished in a highway car crash. The mourning and grief of Mona and Nadira were heartbreaking and they hoped time would heal their wounded hearts. However, before they realized it, the tragedy was soon overshadowed by the hellish nightmare that hijacked their lives for ever —- The discriminatory inheritance law against women in Egypt.  According to the law, since Ali had no sons to succeed him, 5/24 of everything he sweated blood to own became a property of his siblings in a blink of an eye, and with this share they automatically became partners in everything he owned.

That was not the problem for Mona and Nadira who had long ago accepted their fate as second class citizens in a society that claimed that women enjoyed equal rights. The mother and daughter were willing to give Ali’s siblings the share of the estate they inherited by law and move on with their lives. But because of a family feud that had erupted between Ali and his siblings, so long ago, before he even met his wife, they refused to accept their share of the estate, but at the same time they wouldn’t hand it back over to Mona and Nadira. This decision that even paralyzed the legal system ,  left the girl and her mother in total dilemma.

The 5/24, which constituted the share of Ali’s siblings, was small yet it was enough to create a lot of headaches  that filled Mona and her mother’s lives with so much stress and misery. Nothing that dealt with his estate would be approved without their precious signature, and that included as trivial details as renewing Mona’s car license, since it was in her father’s name.

Someone would accuse Ali that he wasn’t smart enough to write a will. On the contrary, he was very smart, but wills are not allowed to be drafted in Islam either. Only a son could block the siblings of the deceased, but never a daughter. This might explain why there is so much emphasis of having a son in societies where Islam rules. By the way, non-Muslim subjects in Muslim societies are also subjected to the law of the land which is derived from Shariaa – Islamic law.

With or without a son, Nadira’s share of the estate was 1/8th. Had Mona had a brother, he would be entitled to twice as much as her share. Can’t you see, he is the boy.

So, how can any sensible person look a woman  in the eye and say that Islam does not discriminate against women? When someone says that, he/she is not only insulting their intelligence as human beings, but also demeaning their integrity. If equality means that women deserve half of what a man gets, then whoever suggests that should go back to learn their math.

Lawmakers and religious scholars would gain women’s  respect if they came out in the public and acknowledged that women don’t have equal rights.   Those who smirk in women’s  faces with the infamous line that Islam gave women all their rights should elaborate and clarify what rights exactly they are talking about.

Probably by now you’re asking what had happened to Mona and her mother, and for that you just have to stay tuned.

To be continued………

To read more about the subject:

Inheritance Law in Islam and Women
Islam and Fundamentalism. Impact of Human rights on women By: Salma Khan

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Filed under Women Rights in Egypt

Man vs. Sunblock

By: Alexandra Kinias

With so much emphasis on marriage, growing up as a girl in Egypt can be very stressful. As the quote ‘Living in a man’s shadow is better than living in a wall’s shadow’ is drilled into their minds from an early age, girls grow up with the understanding that their ultimate goal is to get married, raise kids and have a family. And sadly enough most girls are bred to become eventually incubators and have more kids to sustain the population growth – I fail to see it any other way.

In a society where their role as baby makers is a top career, women hardly escape their fate. It is most unfortunate that that’s what they sometimes thrive for. For a lot of them, marriage is viewed as a way of breaking away from their family’s chains and becomes a symbol of a social respect.

When marriage becomes a destination, naturally the image of an unmarried woman is not very cheerful. And if anyone, God forbids, joins their ranks, it becomes an emotional and strenuous experience for both the girl and her family. Women in her extended family, friends and neighbors would click their tongues and purse their lips for the unlucky girl who had missed the marriage train. She would also be showered with pitiful looks for the terminal disease she suffers from; Spinsterhood – an ailment only a man could cure.

The pressure women are subjected to might lead them to marry an incompatible suitor who comes knocking on their door to save them from their doomed fate. And of course the older the women get the more compromises are made. The remedy offered by the suitor might sometimes means the woman would accept to be a second wife. It is not such a grave situation to salvage themselves from the social stigma that comes from being an old maid in a society that still discriminates against unmarried women.  Anything could be sacrificed for a change in social status. Some of these marriages make it while others fail and the spinster label is switched to a divorcee which is not a welcomed status either, but one that is more acceptable.

Being viewed as a house wrecker who might impose a potential threat to her married peers, an unmarried woman is often expelled from the circle of her friends. The same goes for divorced women. And for both of these women the attempts to live alone come with hardships because  in a society that is focused on matrimony, it is beyond comprehension that being single is a voluntary choice.

When girls reach the age of marriage, family’s nagging starts. The timing varies: in cities, it usually happens after college while in small towns and villages it takes place much earlier.

In their pursuit for a husband, girls often master the arts of manipulation and deception in fear of losing their trophy to be. Actually, they are not to be blamed. When they grow up in a society where they learn that living in the shadow of a man is better than living in the shadow of a wall, what else could they think off?

Following  the footsteps of their ancestors in the quest of finding a husband can be to very mentally and emotionally exhausting process. If the woman fails, she feels that she is incompatible, loses her self confidence and is left with self pity that might lead to depression. And those who succeed will replace one shadow with the other – Yes the quote clearly stated that  women are destined to stay in the shade, no matter what. And with these two options at my disposal, I would rather bake in the sun.

To read more:

Spinsters By choice.

Egyptian spinsters fight against stereotype and discrimination

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Filed under Women Rights in Egypt

Price of Honor

By: Alexandra Kinias

“Women’s purity is like a matchstick that flames but once.” This quote that was first introduced in a 1940s Egyptian movie became very famous for generations to come. It is still widely used today; maybe just as a joke, but none-the-less it describes a disturbing social state of mind.   In Egypt and other countries, women’s virtue is still judged by the existence of their hymen on their wedding night.  The most disgusting scene I remember from another Egyptian Black and White movie was set in a village. On the wedding night of the two main characters, the whole village waited in anticipation in front of the newlywed’s home for the groom to come out and show them the white bed sheet stained with the bride’s purity — blood of her virtue. Only then the parents were relieved, the crowds cheered, music played and life went on.

Hymenless unmarried women are exposed to severe emotional, mental and sometimes physical abuse, but these are the lucky ones. In other harsher environments they are slaughtered like sheep for losing their virginity to someone other than their husbands in what is known as Honor killing; which is often above the law.

In some of these societies men walk away from their crimes as it is simply viewed as domestic violence. A male relative who cleanses the family’s scandal and retains its honor is viewed as a hero. He could be a father, brother, uncle, husband or all of the above together.

These cultural and social trends are not just contained anymore in their societies, but have succeeded in crossing borders and settling in new lands. As it may come as a surprise to many, honor killings have been committed in Northern America by the immigrants from such cultures.

To survive within the medieval mentalities that exist in these societies, women are now seeking  hymenorophy, or the operation that restores their virginity. And who should blame them if they did.  The hypocrisy in such societies has encouraged the soaring of such operations that are performed few days prior to their marriage, and with it their past is buried forever.  Performed in underground clinics and under sedation doctors  stitch up the hymen, and thus maintain men’s pathetic delusional vision of virtue.

These operations are not affordable to most women, but China  surprised the Middle East with its newest product: an artificial hymen that is sold for a fraction of what an operation  costs  and simulates the bleeding a virgin bride experiences on her wedding night —- And that is not a joke.

The custodians of women’s virtue (men of course) in the Egyptian parliament dropped every other issue that might help a country that is on the verge of an unprecedented and inevitable economical crisis and spent long sessions discussing the ban on importing fake hymens and drafting laws that punish those who import and sell them.

I despise cheating in any shape or form, but I wonder that maybe men with such mentalities do deserve to be cheated by women who had sought such operations to salvage their lives from an inevitable fate.

I gravely fail to see any honor in a violent crime committed against women. Imagine the fear, submission and the pleading of a victim who in her last breaths begs for her life to be spared by those who are supposed to protect her.  Where is the honor there?

To read more about Honor Killing in America check these links:

Egyptian cab driver in Texas shoots his two daughters.

Faleh Elmaleki runs over daughter in attempted Honor Killing.

In Toronto Canada, a Pakistani man kills his three daughters with the assistance of their brother.

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Filed under Honor Killing, Violence against women