from a country where the state dictates how women can dress, we have progress of sorts in terms of women's access to education:
...King Abdullah yesterday laid the foundation for the Kingdom’s first women-only university, which is to be built at a cost of SR15 billion on the eastern suburbs of Riyadh.
The Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, with a capacity to enroll some 40,000 students, will offer courses in subjects that women find difficulty studying at universities where strict gender segregation is enforced....
[Minister of Higher Education Khaled Al-Anqari said] “This is a milestone in the Kingdom’s history, particularly in the history of women’s education. The campus would include an administration building, a central library, conference centers, buildings for 15 academic faculties, several laboratories and a 700-bed hospital equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.
“Some areas in the campus would be allocated for research in nanotechnology, bio-sciences and information technology in collaboration with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology,” he said.
Princess Al-Jowhara bint Fahd, the university’s president, said the institution is designed to become the world’s largest center of higher learning for women. “It would double the admission capacity of women students,” she said in a statement. “The university would have 13 colleges, including those for medicine, dentistry, nursing, naturopathy, information technology, languages, instant translation and pharmacy.”
baby steps, and no doubt this is a puff piece, but access to education is the first step towards empowerment. access to employment is the next step, and it looks like the saudi government is encouraging businesses to do that, from the article quoted. but whether or not this is more than just words remains to be seen.
and now we have another two countries who want to join the ranks of those where the state dictates how women can dress. first up is belgium:
THE collapse of the Belgian coalition government has prevented the country's parliament from voting in Europe's first ban on wearing the Islamic burqa in public.
Prime Minister Yves Leterme offered to quit after the coalition broke down, throwing the country's political institutions into turmoil....
The controversial decision could be put on the agenda for the next parliamentary session in a week's time "unless the government falls and the house of representatives is dissolved," a parliamentary spokeswoman told AFP.
this would no doubt be viewed as a case of divine intervention by the sorts of sheikhs that predict earthquakes. i certainly don't wish any ill on the belgians, but here's hoping that the vote gets put off for more than a week.
and then there is the french version, which is quite a lot more of an overt & populist political move by a president suffering from very low popularity ratings, a president who has a history of this kind of thing:
A SAVIOUR of women, or rank Islamophobe and racist? By pushing for a total ban on the burka, or full Islamic veil, in all public places, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is provoking outrage in the political establishment while winning the backing of the electorate and the far-right....
Mr Sarkozy has galvanised the Right and split the Left over the burka, with solid support from voters. Anti-racism groups are pitted against secular Muslim feminist movements, while the Socialist Party is in disarray.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon has been charged with trying to hurry the law through the National Assembly, where Socialists and Communists are at odds over whether to ban the burka at all, partially or everywhere.
the funniest quote from that article would have to be this one:
"When we go to (another) country, we vigorously respects its laws . . . therefore everyone must respect the law in France. It's like that."
o rly? is that what you did? cos, you know, some people don't remember it like that. and in case you think belgium is any better in this regard, think again. it doesn't seem to me that rwanda and the republic of congo have benefitted from that particular colonisation.
but despite all of that history, and despite the fact that many muslims are in france as a direct result of colonisation, it seems the natives from the colonies are still not deserving of respect. the attack is (again) on women. because they are the softer target? less likely to riot in the streets? more likely to submit to oppression? who knows.
what i know is that if these bans go ahead, it is highly likely that these women will become even more secluded than they are now. if the women are covering themselves from their own choice, then the state is saying that they shouldn't have that choice, thus taking away their agency for no valid reason. if they are covering because they are forced to do it, then such laws will make the situation worse as those forcing them will further restrict their movements. i mean really, isn't it basic common sense that if you want to stop abuse, you target policies towards the behaviour of the abuser?
in either case, it's a stupid move that won't liberate or empower anyone. it will, however, cause increasing tensions and divisions. sarkozy definitely knows this but doesn't care. i don't know much about belgium, but given the coalition government is on the brink of collapse, it's not a stretch to assume that this is a populist move there as well.
so while there's all the fuss around what boobquake does or doesn't say about women's empowerment, let's spare a thought for these women who don't seem to have any kind of voice at all in the political manoeuverings apparently designed to "liberate" them.
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