Tag Archives: women in Egypt

Somethings Can’t be Covered

 

tumblr_nvgwpetl4V1rvtvymo6_1280

–By: Alexandra Kinias —

It was not uncommon, when I was growing up in Egypt, to hear loud screams screeching the stillness of the hot summer nights, when people opened their windows to the cool Mediterranean breeze. Chilling sounds of women pleading to their husbands to stop or calling for help pierced the neighborhood. And by sunrise, perpetrators walked freely in the streets, as if nothing had happened, while the bruised faces you met, with eyes averted were the only proof of the heinous crime committed against women

Domestic violence is a disturbing phenomenon practiced by men across cultures for control and dominance. According to the UN reports, up to 70 percent of women have experienced violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. And according to the same report, it is estimated that of all women who were victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

No woman is immune against this abhorrent practice regardless of her age, religion, race, education, and social or economic status. And while it is criminalized in many countries around the world, in male dominant societies, as in the Middle East and where sharia is the panel code of law, domestic violence is often blamed on women for bringing it upon themselves.

In these societies, domestic violence is not just accepted, but also promoted, advised and justified by religious scholars. Defenders of the faith deny that Islam is responsible for the perpetuation of violence against women, as it also exists in non-Muslim communities. Many go as far as refuting the interpretation of the verse that explicitly states it.

Domestic violence is practiced by men of other cultures and other beliefs in communities around the world, but in such societies, it is criminalized and perpetrators are punished. On the other hand, in communities where Islam rules, not only it is not criminalized, but also viewed as an acceptable male behavior, where victims are mostly blamed for their victimization.

As violence continues, women not only reach a state of submissiveness in accepting this abusive treatment, but also justify it, and question their role in triggering it. This justification becomes their coping mechanism. It gives them a delusional hope that if they changed, violence would stop. In a survey reported by amnesty international, 39 per cent of Egyptian women agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances, which may include going out without telling him, neglecting the children, arguing with him, refusing to have sex with him, and burning the food.

Awarded with the privileges handed over to them at birth by their gender, men find no need to change. Women in societies where violence pervades are bred to obey, please and work the relationship, take more care of the men’s needs, avoid confrontations, and become a subordinate – not an equal partner – in the relationship. So under whatever circumstances, women believe that it is their fault to be punished for not being a good partner, and often come to the defense of their abusers.

Acknowledging their own fault in triggering their aggression, women modify their attitudes and behavior, as a good wife or partner should. They avoid confrontations, for it’s their role, dictated by their society or community, to be understanding and considerate; to stay calm, accept the abuse and not answer back, not to intimidate, and not to complain. And when women are punished for defying the status quo, they blame themselves and promise to be more careful next time. Unfortunately with each incident, their voices get lower until they are eventually silenced.

Experiencing violence is traumatic and demeaning. Physical and mental abuse is humiliating. It shakes women’s confidence and her self-worth dwindles. It perpetuates in silence because it is shameful to talk about. Perpetrators achieve control over the victim by breaking her emotionally and mentally. Victims become isolated and as a result, the cycle continuous because silence is the perfect ground for abuse to thrive.

Many victims endure years of abuse without seeking help because of financial dependency and fear of homelessness. So instead of breaking away from the relationship, women stay and try to make it work. But against their best judgment, the vicious cycle of domestic violence not only doesn’t end, but it escalates and the episodes become more frequent, severe and intense.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Violence against women

How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —

megawati

Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.

bangladesh

KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006

sheikh

SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.

turkey

TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.

kyrgyzstan

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.

senegal

MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

bhutto3 (1)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.

kosovo

ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.

CisséMariamSidibeKaïdama

Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.

ameenah

AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.

2 Comments

Filed under Islam and Women, Politics, Violence against women, Women of Egypt, Women's Rights, Women's rights in Egypt

How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —

megawati

Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.

bangladesh

KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006

sheikh

SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.

turkey

TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.

kyrgyzstan

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.

senegal

MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

bhutto3 (1)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.

kosovo

ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.

CisséMariamSidibeKaïdama

Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.

ameenah

AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.

2 Comments

Filed under Islam and Women, Violence against women, Women in Egypt, Women's Rights, Women's rights in Egypt

Struggles of Egyptian Women

enhanced-buzz-19935-1383747307-21

— By: Alexandra Kinias —

Women in Egypt live in perpetual struggle , both internal and external. To explain  the internal struggle she was going through, a young single woman borrowed the Cherokee tale of the two wolves to demonstrate her point.

The Tale of the Two Wolves

One evening, an elderly
Cherokee told his
grandson about a battle that
goes on inside people.
He said “my son, the battle is
between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger,
envy, jealousy, sorrow,
regret, greed, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, and resentment.

The other is good.
It is joy, peace love, hope serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, generosity,
truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson though about
it for a minute and then asked
his grandfather:”which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied,
“The one that you feed”

The young woman replaced the evil and good wolves in the Native American tale by Egyptian and Western ones. Similar to many other women her age, she was torn between the social, cultural and religious values she grew up with, and the western values imported to Egypt via satellite dishes, and which have influenced, shaped, and often distorted the perception of reality of how the west lives in the minds of many. None-the-less, exposure to the western pop culture has opened the eyes of many to a simpler, freer way of living where women are independent and where gender equality is practiced.

The Egyptian wolf living within this young woman, and many others, and that abide by the social rules and values, fought a continuous battle with the wolf that wants to live a westernized lifestyle, have a boyfriend, experience premarital sex, drinks, travels alone, or openly admitting their sexual orientations.

Because of the shame associated with imported western values alien to Middle Eastern societies, women don’t have enough courage to stand up to the social taboos, and as a result, lead a confused double standard life where  the battle between the two wolves becomes a part of it; it influences their views, decisions and mostly leaves them uncertain on which side they should stand. Despite their dreams of freedom and independence, breaking these taboos is challenging for some and impossible for many. Women are actually chained not only by social values, but also by religious ones.

girls-on-Boats-1

Religion plays a powerful role in shaping their identities, protecting their virtues and honors and guiding them through life. It is the voice of conscience that whispers “haram .. haram .. haram..,” a constant reminder that enjoying life’s pleasures according to the western values is forbidden by Islamic law. So, in addition to the identity crisis many suffer from, they are also living in continuous shame and guilt. And no matter how fierce the battle between the wolves is, the Egyptian wolf wins. At the end of the day, they are compelled to live by the social and religious standards that have been drilled in their minds since birth, and which have been passed from generation to the other.

And while the wolves are fighting within, women in Egypt encounter another external struggle that is manifested in the pressures they are exposed to, to fulfil the social roles expected from  them. In a society where marriage is glorified, girls grow up to believe that it is women’s ultimate dream. And when unmarried young women above the age of twenty five are pitied, mocked, gossiped about and labeled as spinsters, staying single is not a choice.

Many women marry, often incompatible partners, because of social, peer and family pressure. Once married, they are pressured to start a family or stay in dysfunctional marriages, which until less than two decades ago, had no right to terminate them, but most importantly because a divorcee in the Egyptian society is looked down upon.

Before the new divorce laws that were issued in 2000, which granted women the right to divorce and retain the house, if the kids are still underage, non-working women with no source of income stayed married for financial reasons and in fear to end up homeless. And with the loose alimony and child support laws, not all families were ready for the extra expenses of a divorced daughter and grandkids. The irony, however, was that even women who could afford a divorce, still couldn’t get one. It was a right granted only to men.  And while some women couldn’t get a divorce, others were divorced against their wishes.

Society stigmatized and alienated divorced women. Viewed by many as loose and unrespectable women, friends avoided them to protect their husbands and their own marriages. Parents restricted their freedoms to guard their tarnished reputation, in the eyes of the society.  The endless battles in courts over the alimonies, child support and custody dragged for years and costed fortunes. Divorced women were nothing but trouble, and families were happy to hand them over to another man to resume their responsibilities.

Add to that that women growing up in misogynist societies learn to cope with their husband’s polygamy and domestic violence; for they are permitted by Sharia, the Islamic law. In Egypt, unlike the civil laws the rule the land, family laws are derived from Sharia, favoring men’s interests over women, which adds more burden to women’s lives. So, while women’s struggle continues, meager changes for their status take effect, since such changes must be permitted by religious scholars, whom by doing so would be defying the Islamic law.

It is very stressful to be a woman in Egypt.

1 Comment

Filed under Women in Egypt, Women of Egypt

Polygamy: Infidelity with a License

Polygamy-WeddingCake2Women1Man-810px_shutterstock_34797862

By: Alexandra Kinias —

Polygamy, a medieval practice, is still alive today in societies where sharia rules. And even in countries where the laws don’t permit it, the imams in the mosques perform polygamous religious matrimonial ceremonies. As the powers of the imams are stronger than secular laws, these religious marriages are valid without the need to register them with the authorities. So, an immigrant to a western society can have a registered wife in front of the law, and another one or two who are not. Even though polygamy is legalized in Islam, the most faithful women strongly stand against sharing their husbands with another woman. The fact that the law permits a husband to engage in a sexual relation with another woman, doesn’t stop the first wives from feeling betrayed and cheated,  by both the husbands and the state.

Islam permitted the second marriage under very strict conditions and terms. And against the beliefs of many, it was neither promoted nor encouraged. Justice between the wives is the foundation upon which polygamy was based. In the Quranic verse 4:3, Allah says, “….…if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then [marry] only one….. That is the best way to avoid doing injustice.”

Islam permits a man to marry a second wife only if he is absolutely certain that he will treat his wives fairly, and that he would share everything equally between them. In other words, a man cannot favor one woman over the other, emotionally and financially, which in reality is impossible. Failing to do that precludes the validity that permits polygamy. Men’s rationalization of polygamy without following the clear guidelines that allowed it is a clear abuse to the rights granted to them.

Reasons why men marry a second wife?

With no consideration to the emotional, mental and psychological impact they inflict on their first wives and kids, men marry second wives simply because they can. With the premise that they have neither broken the law nor sinned, they practice their right to engage in sexual relations with multiple partners. This inherited medieval practice will not be obliterated in the near future. On the contrary, in societies where conservatism is on the rise and/or economy is declining, polygamy is gaining momentum.
In spite of the clear religious justifications that permitted polygamy, for most men it is just a fling. The ludicrous justification of their actions remains elusive; whether it is discontentment or boredom with their marriages, or a self-reward for life achievements. For some polygamy is a social status. With financial gains comes a new wife.

In crude terms, polygamy in reality is a license for infidelity. Polygamous conduct is propelled by men’s primal desire: sex, which is not only accepted by their peers, but is often defended too. Advocates of polygamy compare a man’s second marriage with extramarital affairs in western societies. Naturally, their ridiculous comparison favors and condones polygamy. They incriminate the western sinners who engage in extramarital affairs, while defending Muslim men for practicing a right granted to them by their faith. That’s an absurd and irrational argument, but expected from those who ignore the fact that extramarital affairs are neither accepted in western societies nor legalized by the law.

In Islam, the consent of the first wife is required for a husband to marry a second one. The first wife then has the choice to either stay married or get a divorce. And while a few men confront the first wife with their decision, the majority keeps the marriage secret in fear of confrontation that may lead to a divorce or social tarnishing, especially among family, friends or coworkers.

With the loose family laws in Egypt, men managed to keep their second marriages clandestine. But new laws were drafted to tighten the loopholes to ensure that wives are informed when their husbands register the second marriage. Inevitably, and in defiance to these laws, men either don’t register their second marriages – similar to what Muslims do in Western societies – or conclude an ‘Orfi’ marriage, which is a simple contract drafted between the bride and groom and signed by two male witnesses.

First wives vs. second wives

No doubt second marriages violate the trust between spouses, often lost forever in some cases. It is not just the jealousy from another woman that drives the first wives, but for most it is a manifestation of failure as a woman, a partner and a wife. Not to mention the tormenting emotional pain they endure. Sadly enough, and due to several factors, not all first wives choose to terminate this demeaning love triangle. Financially dependent women would resentfully stay in this hurtful relationship, accepting emotional crumbs from their husbands, with no one to thank but the lawmakers that drafted the laws that guaranteed women’s submissiveness. Had divorce laws granted women financial independence, not many would stay in a polygamous relationship.  The situation is even worse when kids are involved. Because of the loose child support laws in Egypt, many men abandon their financial obligations towards their kids, without fear of punishment. Some would do it out of negligence while others to pressure women to stay in a dysfunctional marriage against their will. Economically threatened women are compelled to accept the situation out of financial need.

Why women become a co-wife?

Women in Egypt are living under continuous societal pressure to get married, have kids and start a family. Some would marry incompatible partners simply to avoid staying single, even if it means that this marriage inevitably would end with a divorce. Divorced women are not in any better position than the single ones. They are also subjected to their share of societal pressure. How the society perceives and treats single and divorced women play a major role in spreading polygamy.

To be objective, and before throwing the blame on these women, it is important to consider thoroughly the reasons why they choose to accept a part time husband. Circumstances vary from one case to the other, and more important than denouncing these women, it is imperative to understand why they choose to become a co-wife, tolerating the social smear, labeled as home wreckers and husbands’ thieves.

There are multiple social factors that contribute to the existence and sustainability of this love triangle, on top of which is economical. Economic pressures compel young single women, divorcees and widows with kids, to accept becoming a second wife, in secret. For many, marriage becomes a necessity and becoming a co-wife and have emotional and financial stability is better than staying single. Having a man that would provide the emotional and financial stability to a widow and her kids is a dream come true to many. Also the societal pressures on single women, who passed their prime age, leave them with fewer choices of single men and more of married ones.

Conclusion:

While polygamy is no doubt an emotional crime committed against the marriage, it is more relevant not to blame the women who take part in it as much as blaming the laws that favor men. These laws force women into one form of submission or another. The sustainability of polygamy is an affirmation that society lacks empathy, fairness and understanding in treating its women. Eradicating polygamy will only materialize if collective efforts unite to combat the reasons that cause women to fall for such marriages in the first place.

However, it is unfair to assert that all second wives marry for financial reasons or societal pressure. In a society where out-of-marriage sex in still a taboo, marriage is the answer to both men and women who are seeking a good time, with no strings attached. Many of these marriages are short lived. When the sexual desire expires, so does the marriage. For some men with means, it becomes a way of life, always ready for a new adventure. And for a wide range of these men, such adventures take place with the knowledge of the first wives who would keep a blind eye, knowing that at the end the man always comes back to her nest.

Leave a comment

Filed under Polygamy in Egypt, Urfi Marriage, Women in Egypt, Women Rights in Egypt

Man vs. Sunblock . Why many women choose to live in the shadow of men?

s-EGYPT-ISLAMIC-WEDDING-large (1)

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

To read more:

Leave a comment

Filed under marriage in EGypt, spinsters in Egypt, Women in Egypt, Women's rights in Egypt

Women of Egypt: Victories and Defeats in the Last 100 Years – Part Two

534901_439527712807409_2078796077_n

Students of Al Azhar University, Cairo – Egypt, prior to the Wahaby Invasion

Article written by: Alexandra Kinias

The six day war in 1967 between Egypt and the State of Israel changed the course of Nasser’s leadership, the map of the ME, the fate of Egypt, and subsequently her women. The turmoil in the Egyptian society had been brewing for a long time prior to that, and to be precise, the road to change started in 1928 with the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

Nasser came to power with the blessings of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1952. They supported his coup d’état and in return they anticipated that Nasser would run the country in alliance to their Islamic agenda. For Nasser, a hard core socialist leaning towards the Soviet Union and the iron curtain countries, his perfect society was not founded on religion. In their eternal battle against the West, the Muslim Brotherhood demanded President Nasser implements reforms in the educational system that promoted their doctrine. Failing to see eye to eye with the MB and their demands to Islamize the society and enforce veil on women, as they openly demanded Nasser to do, he became their adversary. [1]

A failed attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member gave Nasser the green light to eradicate them. [2] The organization was banned and arrest warrants were issued to its members nationwide. This move forced its members to go undercover and to flee the country on self-exile. They were welcomed like heroes by the Saudi government that was in dispute with Nasser whose government supported numerous revolutionary groups against the monarchs in the Middle East including the Saudi regime. [3]

The loss of Sinai in the six day war while it was humiliating to Egyptians, it was celebrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. [4] Losing the war was justified as God’s punishment to Nasser and the Egyptian people for adopting secular beliefs. It was their golden chance to call on the believers to return back to the true path of Islam and abandon the foreign ideologies. Depressed and ridiculed over the loss of land and dignity, these calls resonated with a lot of people. [5]

Living in the shadows of Nasser and without much popularity, Sadat came to power on shaky grounds when Nasser died in 1971. Not wanting to follow in Nasser’s footsteps, Sadat made truce with the Muslim Brotherhood. He released their members from jails and invited those who were in exile to return back. [6]

The next four decades witnessed multiple factors that caused the dramatic change which shifted the society towards religion and caused women’s issues to decline.

With the surge of oil prices after the 1973 embargo, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries were left with unexpected excess of cash that came to be known as Petro-dollars. Millions of Egyptians migrated to help build the newly developed countries. [7], [8] They settled, made a lot of money and a new generation of children was born, raised and attended school there. On their return to their homeland, they brought back not just their wealth, but also cultural habits, beliefs and traditions alien to the Egyptian society. The invasion of Wahhabism into the Egyptian society was first visible in the style of clothing adopted from the Gulf States. Women wore long black dresses and head covers and men grew beards. New businesses opened to accommodate this new transformation. Restaurants and coffee shops served non-alcoholic beverages, and boutiques sold exclusively clothing and headscarves for veiled women.

It is important to note that even after it was banned, the Muslim Brotherhood organization never vanished from the political scene in Egypt. While keeping their eyes on their ultimate goal, its members went underground, regrouped, recruited, reorganized and expanded; Ironically, Sadat was assassinated by the hands of the Jihadist’s group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. [9]

After Sadat’s assassination, Mubarak had the power and the support to curb the influence of the Islamists; a perfect, but wasted chance to clear the country from their influence. But instead, Mubarak methodically encouraged them to grow. He used the Salafies to fight the Muslim Brotherhood and used them both to manipulate the West. [10] He allowed them to mushroom and invade every household through their ultra-conservative TV channels. Unqualified Sheikhs spread their venom in mosques to the pious and illiterate believers. Among their warped ideology, these misogynist sheikhs promoted and encouraged violence against women. This process of brainwashing was gradual and continued for three decades.

During Mubarak’s thirty years of governing, Egypt slid back into the dark ages. The rate of poverty, corruption and illiteracy soared. Women witnessed a severe decline in their status that was the worst since the turn of the twentieth century.

So the question now is what role did Mubarak’s politics play to reverse the achievements that women gained over the years?

End of Part Two

[1] Muslim Brotherhood ask Nasser to veil women (video)

[2] Mother Jones, Robert Dreyfuss, Feb 2011

[3] History Today, Robert Stephens, 1981

[4] Middle East Forum, Adeed Dawisha, Winter 2003

[5] Martin Kramer, “Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity,

[6] History Today, Robert Stephens, 1981

[7] Migration Policy Institute, By Divya Pakkiasamy

[8] Ahram Online, July 2012

[9] Egyptian Islamic Jihad

[10] Egypt’s Islamists: The big bad wolf, By Eric Walberg, April 19, 2011

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Women Rights in Egypt