By: Alexandra Kinias — I watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels. As an immigrant who had not grown up into American culture, I always admired how women of this great nation were enjoying their rights. However, this movie was an eye opening to the events of what really happened. There was no shred of doubt in my mind that women did in fact demand their rights to everything they are enjoying today. But I never imagined that these rights were achieved after a fierce and long battle. I wasn’t aware of the struggles that women had to go through to get their right to vote.
Women arrested and jailed on false accusations, harassed and abused, and thrown into solitary confinement, were things you heard happening elsewhere. Who would have believed that this happened in America? The movie didn’t just evoke a lot of feelings regarding women’s issues, but it also sparked the idea of what I am going to post in my blog, especially that blog started to discuss the serious issues that I addressed in my fiction novel “Black Tulips” which address the social hardships that Egyptian women encounter due to living in a male dominant society.
The Egyptian government statistics show that more than 50% of low class women are the sole breadwinners for their families. These women roam the streets every day looking for jobs. They are widows, divorcees, abandoned by their husbands or working to support an unemployed one. And while trying to make a living, they are subjected to a lot of physical and emotional abuse.
Girls dropping out of school to support their families is a curse facing the future of women. Females turning to prostitution as a source of income is not widely spread, but it is not uncommon either, and so are teenage pregnancies. Domestic violence against women, sexual harassment and girls being sold into marriages are among some of the examples of the hardships that face women. As a result of that the rate of hymenorophy (restoring the virginity) operations that girls have to go through to protect their honor and thus their lives is increasing.
The Feminist Movement in Egypt that started at the beginning of the twentieth century was somehow silenced. In 1919, women, while still under the veil, marched in demonstrations along men to protest against the British occupation. In 1923 the Egyptian Feminist Movement was founded by Hoda Sharawi. On her return from an international feminist meeting in Rome , and while still on the steam boat, Sharawi and her peers removed their veils and dumped them in the sea.
Women’s political and educational rights soared, but family rights have always been stagnant. Divorce was only decided by the man, and harsh divorce and custody laws always favored men. Egyptian family laws were derived from Shariaa, the religious law, which doesn’t give much room to refute. I don’t believe that holly laws discriminate between genders; all laws were derived by men for men.
Over the past few decades, women were brainwashed into believing that they have achieved all their rights, and stopped fighting for them, and as a result, their situation regressed greatly. But with the political changes over the last four years, women came to believe their importance as an active political partner and decision maker. They are waking up to realize that their rights won’t simply drop on them from the sky, but that they have to fight hard for it to catch up with what they have missed. With this spark of hope, there’s a cautious sense of optimism that the future might be in fact changing to their favor.