Women's Rights in the Middle East

June 25, 2006

Mackinnon3 Writing about the new voting rights accorded to Kuwaiti women, the Globe and Mail’s Mark Mackinnon yesterday offered an overview of women’s political rights across the Middle East (click here and scroll down).

Among the findings:

  • Egypt: Women cast ballots in the country’s first multi-candidate presidential elections in September, but voting was marred by accusations of intimidation and irregular practices.
  • Iran: Women can vote, but face harsh restrictions in other realms.
  • Iraq: In December, men and women voted in the first full election since the 2003 U.S. invasion. It was mandated that women make up at least 25 per cent of the members of the new parliament.
  • Israel: Women in Israel have the rights and responsibilities typical of most liberal democracies.
  • Jordan: Though ruled by a hereditary monarch, all Jordanians over the age of 18 can vote for the House of Deputies. The government has taken several steps to improve women’s political status in recent years, including appointing women to government ministries and high-level posts.
  • Lebanon: Women have had the right to vote and to run for office since 1953, and have many of the same rights and responsibilities as women in Western democracies.
  • Palestinian territories: Women vote and hold public office and are guaranteed equal rights under the Basic Law, but in many areas Egyptian or Jordanian laws discriminatory to women are enforced.
  • Saudi Arabia: The absolute monarchy first tried democracy in 2005, with limited voting for municipal government. Women, however, were not allowed to cast ballots or run. Officials have pledged to include women in 2009.
  • Syria: All Syrians are allowed to vote in a referendum to confirm the nominee for president chosen by the ruling Baath party, but Syria for the past 30 years has been ruled by the al-Assad family.

Mackinnon’s information comes largely from Freedom House, which recently published a comprehensive report entitled "Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice."


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