The Woman in the Course of Development

This research stems from a basic and systematic assumption that refers to Arab and Islamic cultural heritage and thought as being subjugated to a shrinking and contradictory row. The purpose of this trend, which has been responsible for the formulation of attitudes towards the Woman, is to justify the conservative and under-estimated view of Woman in her spiritual, physical and intellectual whatness. This historically accumulated perception of Woman pushed women to precisely adopt a pre-determined social role, and consequently limited women’s ability to share men, or play a key role in the courses of development. Such role is very essential for changing the dominant culture and a new start towards a human society that is modern and equalitarian in terms of rights. This objective can’t be achieved without an open     dialogue based on direct discussion of texts and discourse that constitute the intellectual ground on which Arab culture and thought systems are built.   

Shedding light on women’s suffering caused by the dominant culture and sets of cultural values integrated with beliefs, customs and traditions that have marked the Arab and Islamic societies, is the beginning of the way for possible solutions to women’s problems and activating their role.  

The Woman, as a cultural issue and a matter of identity is one of the most problematic issue in Arab and Islamic societies. It has been subjected to a biased culture against women in order to justify the conservative and limited view of women as a body and mentality. This attitude has been anchored in the general collective imagination, and used as an obstacle in the way of the development of the age in relation to globalization, or universality of women’s rights with the title of cultural peculiarity distinguished from that of the West. This culture is resistant to the imported values which are considered as a civic and intellectual invasion of the dominant culture. Such invasion is proclaimed to be a deformation of the ideal existing one. 

These Oriental societies are still far from comprehensive development, and burdened with the weight of the relations resulting from the variables of political and economic dictatorships associated with levels of poverty and unemployment. This deviation from modernity is associated with the lack of human rights of both genders, and it leads to social injustice, limitation, darkness and discrimination which are transformed into a biased cultural pattern against women. The issue of women’s emancipation is at the core of the formation of Arab identity and its historical link with the moral discourse about women and the inherited conceptions of honor presented by nomadic communities and female infanticide in order to avoid shame. These issues are reinforced in different ways as components of paternal authority, to reproduce the theme of male honor entirely associated with female hymen.  The idea of honor has been associated with resisting colonization and preservation of identity which distinguishes the conservative Orient from the pornographic West. This is clearly spotted through the depiction of women in the West as narrated by Islamists who portray women’s freedom as a sexual representation. The participation of women in public life and mixing with men without marriage or a close kinship is a real danger and an irrefutable evidence of moral decay and deviation from customs and traditions.

The situation has intensified with the intervention of women’s organizations and international organizations in culturally sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation, honor crimes and equality between men and women, which globalization advocates like to focus as deformation of the privacy of the cultural identity of the Arab society.

It is worth mentioning that female circumcision is widespread in Ethiopia, Iranian countryside and Iraqi Kurdistan where circumcision rates exceed 60 percent as well as in isolated Egyptian and Sudanese rural areas. Female genital mutilation has also spread to some Arab countries as a result of travel. It was not known even in the pre-Islamic era among the Arabs. Arabs had the issue of female infanticide, which is also relative and not general.

This link between women’s issues and the moral discourse adopted by Arab and Islamic societies through their claims of cultural privacy as a concept related to the scope of private life of these societies prescribed for the status of women. Any deviation from the prevailing conventions is considered as a sort of disorder that threatens the cohesion and integrity of the society. These concepts deprive women of any political, religious or moral contributions by excluding any human ability to control instincts.  Any contact between males and females is thought of as a taboo and an inevitable sin stimulant. This is a repulsive reaction to globalization needs a serious revision as it constitutes an opportunistic claim because it promotes cultural conceptions that monopolize women’s abilities and their competence through the following:     

First: Promoting male culture and double standards

Throughout history, women have played a great role in building human civilization, and have been able to become the main factor in the creation of social and economic life. Women used to be the care takers of small production means in farming and animal husbandry. But, with the emergence of social classes, men took over production means including animals and farming, and women became weaker and weaker as they started to have a minor role in society. The integration of men’s sovereignty with the stage of civilization and the exclusion of women from the basic ultra and infra institutions of the class-oriented society, reinforced the marginality of women versus the effectiveness of men, which became the basis for writing the history of women and registration for their subordination and consequently limited their role in building the family in a distorted way with the least chance for participation or getting their rights.

Men’s superiority was not only limited to women; it went further to control Arab and Islamic societies. Pythagoras said: “There is a principle of good who created order and light, man, and the evil principle of creating turbulence and darkness, which is women.”. Zoroaster also talked about women: “if a man should be brought up for war and fighting, women should be dedicated for relaxing warriors, and anything else is nonsense. 

This discriminatory culture, which Western societies have overcome by rebuilding societal awareness that rejects gender discrimination, has persisted within the Arab and Islamic community culture system. This culture includes a number of misconceptions about gender discrimination in both education and culture right from the moment of birth by choosing different colors for male babies from those of female ones.  Male kids are granted the right to oppress female ones who are allowed only to cry.  This develops into male domination and monopoly of wealth, means of production and ultimate power over all family members especially the woman who embraces her weakness versus the strength of the man. These conceptions, habits and sets of behavior usually develop and become a deep-rooted rule that separates males from females. These double standards, which are consistent with the prevailing repression of both genders, contribute to the imbalance in the social structure based on equality between men and women.

On the other hand, contradictions in the masculine fluctuating attitude towards women between attraction and hatred, infatuation and revulsion, holiness and impurity, and the intensification of contradictions about the role and existence of women in society. These arguments over the existence and role of women in the society have been reinforced. Such contradictions enhance the establishment of a feminine culture based on commitment to housework and ultimate subjugation to males, whether husband, brothers or fathers. Women are besieged with a complicated network of tangled threads that keep them locked in the social contradictions and living challenges that accompany contemporary developments. Women’s issues have been a fertile ground for research and scrutiny within the male community and manifestations of marginalization and prostration:


The issue of the marginalization of the role of women has been one of the most problematic issues in our societies. It has given them a special status as a life-makers, “Paradise is under the feet of mothers”. Women are partners in the family and community building”. Women are the twin halves of men in the provisions”. Considering them “Awrah[1]“and a means to seduce is intended to regulate their movement in spatial spaces so as to make them house-ridden in accordance with their femininity. The seeds of social unrest lie in the relationship between the two genders and lack the ability to define the role of women as an effective human value. Women are inferior in terms of mentality and religion no matter how many scientific and achievements they contribute, and they are still considered as a source of sin.

The seeds of marginalization and subordination imposed by traditions and customs confirm the liability to provide service to males and feel inferior to them, carry out their orders. Religions give the best to men:

(With sorrow you will give birth to children, and to your husband, your longing will prevail over you.) Genesis 3:16

(O women, subject yourselves to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord … because the man is the head of the woman as Christ is also the head of the church, the Savior of the body.) The letter of Paul the apostle to the Ephesians 5: 22 – 23:5

The Hadeeth attributed to Prophet Muhammed: If I ordered anyone to prostrate to other than Allah, I would order the woman to prostrate to her husband. Narrated by Ibn Majah.

This is a deficient and selective reading of decontextualized religious texts and verses taken out of their temporal and spatial context. It constitutes a denial of the rights that had been given to women before these verses were inspired, and could be normally harnessed for purposes that have got nothing to do with religion.

Such judgements, which control the role of women and their rights as equal human beings with full capacity, will remove the ability of women to build their private awareness of their approach to life. This adherence to the role that is precisely identified at an early stage of their lives makes the task easier.  

Registration (women’s model)

Although the issue of transforming everything into a commodity and an economic unit that maximize profit and interest is being attributed to globalization. This fact about   globalization of the female body and its promotion for women is inseparable from the prevailing values ​​of male culture and men’s dominance. Reading old Arabic books specialized in sex and sexual relations reveals men’s fear of women as a sexual machine that is difficult to manage, and that women, through their whatness, have got sexual competence that is beyond the ability of men. This is a result of the weak sexual culture of the two parties as well as the role of women’s pre-determined role to satisfy husbands within an institution built on the basis of denial of pleasure and that the goal of marriage is only to reproduce only.

In the age of blind consumption of the forbidden and permissible, coupled with the intellectual vacuum and the suppressed desires associated with the religious and social taboo, the masculine view of women as a mere body and male accessory within the family, and the “Photo Model”. This model is intended to stir up desires and a subject of sedition among video clips and advertising traders, as if this feature is the origin of women, according to what is marketed by the various media and satellite channels, which are full of bad and good products. It doesn’t only drown the man in the image of the woman, but represents a semi-natural response of women, who in their turn change into a means of enjoyment, while at the same time calling for freedom or liberation. Woman is the colorist, as psychologist Pierre Daco puts it. A woman who accepts her role as a commodity and a valuable material for materialistic gain and fame will be swept into other slavery markets.

Marginalization and merchandise of women result from inherited perceptions of the nature of women and fear of the reverse of social roles and the domination of women over society. This process promotes physical and financial exploitation of women, and this is accompanied with violence in the family and society. The woman (mother, wife, sister or daughter) has never escaped from the cycle of violence, its arts and laws, which manifested in the ugliest images in wars that have drowned several countries in the Arab world such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya where brutal and inhuman practices imposed their grinding rhythms. The most affected are those women and children and all aspects of their lives, though the worst was practiced in the name of religion in recent times.  It is enough it to refer to Salafi discourse in Tunisia and Egypt when they talked about the return of women to the house. Rape in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and the practices of extremist religious organizations, such as an oppressive organization and their atrocities against even those women who worked with or for them and under their flags.

Second:  It is important to enhance a contrastive role of the women and making them partner in the persecution they are exposed to. Accumulations of history mingled with the inherited tribal, moral, religious, political and legal concepts were utilized for impairing women and subjugating them, to intellectual, physical and psychological restrictions. This prevents the formation of a clear perception of the actual view toward women and how to search in the roots of the imbalance experienced in the portrayal of oppression, and adopts women’s retreat and isolation in the house until it becomes a sacred prison. It seems as if she is created for subordination and subjugation as women’s ability to share   men is diminished, and they are deterred from acting as an integrated and essential part of society.

Women’s suffering from customs and traditions supported with consumptive   masculine laws has given no chance for dealing with women as human beings. This agony produced two types of women:

  • The inert woman who is typical in our society. This type of women is completely submissive to the kingdom of the man. They have abandoned their active role in society, and adopted the concepts of the man and his views against her. She has become a partner in self-persecution and in the instigation of misconceptions and passing these conceptions to generations to come. It begins with the preference of the birth of a male to the birth of the female, and then distinguishes between them in home education, school and playing games.
  • Second type women are the revolutionary ones. Competitive women are those who began the first step out of dependency through their scientific, creative and cultural achievements, taking advantage of the development of the conditions that help them go to work. These women have realized that it is not the end of their struggle for independence.

Limitations and transformations that our societies have gone through, and the rights of women to social, economic, political, and participation in civil societies don’t mean that they have gained freedom and returned to their role in the creation of community balance, but entangled her in other conflicts and different contradictions because these gains were held in accordance with the conditions of dominant masculine mentality. Despite the manifestations of urbanization and the set of laws dealing with human rights (men and women) that have been adopted in most countries of the world, women’s gains are still imperfect and troubled at all levels such as:

On the level of society and rights

The way women are dealt with varies according to the family environment, the social class or particular part of the same society. The dynamics of political and economic conditions and geographical differences are the basis for determining their status and ways of developing this status. This supports their scientific development and encourages them to play an active role in society. In this way, the amendment of the laws and religious legislations that are accordant with modernity will help in termination of suppression against women. Morocco’s adoption of a law against violence and the fight against forced marriage of women, on 14th February 2018, is a good example. Another example in Tunisia is the ratification of the draft law on equality of inheritance between women and men on 23 November 2018. However, these societies mostly maintain women’s inferiority regardless of their gains.

The greater and broader difference between women’s situation and their roles actually emerges between the countryside and the city. There are two segments of women on two different banks in terms of requirements, development mechanisms and the ability to act and be activated.

Cities are characterized by their openness, which ensures the preservation of individual freedom, and facilitates the building of relationships based on mutual respect due to the diversity of cultural and intellectual backgrounds, and the general orientation towards education and work. This peculiarity has contributed to building a more positive attitude towards women’s participation, in developing women’s adequate awareness of their rights and role in society, and the need for financial independence or being liberal and capable of action and decision-making. But this has not been on the path of the development of society as a whole. The emergence of a liberal face is still much of a social controversy. The obstacles that women are subjected to have their effects in the contradiction between their male-bound presence within the family and an independent community that is able to make decisions outside the house.

What is achieved by the large proportion of women in the city, though imperfect, s far better than what rural women who constitutes 43 percent of the women have achieved. Rural women are still plunged into poverty and illiteracy, and are restricted by traditions and customs that sometimes mount up to depriving them of choosing their husbands. Rural women, despite their presence, are active in agriculture and animal husbandry, but they do not achieve material gain or independence. It is part of the roles of rural women and falls within the negative role of society, customs and traditions. In addition to being vulnerable and exposed to physical and moral exploitation by their families in the first place, rural women are working inside and outside their houses, except for their primary role in the issue of procreation and child upbringing with the least level of reproductive health and family planning services as a result of various concepts to justify the large number of children. These relate to the view of religion in family planning, the presence of children in the labor market and the belief that having many children prevents a husband from getting married to another wife.

Rural women continue to move away from their knowledge of their rights and duties and exercise the role entrusted to them with almost absolute conviction that they are doing what they are able to do, and placing their daughters on the same fate within a reality that ignores intellectual and community development issues.

It should be noted that many societal constraints have become increasingly entrenched with the modern development that accompanied the revolution of modern communication, which paved the way for communication between women and men, and that the relationship between them entered into a different domain despite the possibility of violations or breaking the rules of prohibition.

In terms of financial independence

Women’s early entry into the labor market in most countries granted them a number of gains, life experiences and increased their ability to respect their active and productive existence. There is an increasing demand for women to choose the specialized scientific fields. Arab women have a high representation in professional work. The large proportion of jobs in the fields of medicine, academic posts and the media are occupied by female doctors, professors, journalists and broadcasters despite the great burden added to their commitment to house work, raising children and caring for them.

The real problem for females is not in being producers, but the entanglement into another contradiction between vulnerability and the need for protection by the male, and the rejection of exploitation resulting from that protection. In many cases, women’s tendency to work has not been stimulated by the desire for financial independence and build an independent personality as much as to it has been stimulated by the need to meet the demands and burdens of life. This forces women to accept the conditions of employers and close their eyes on exploitation that can be experienced, especially in the free enterprise that are usually accompanied with physical and material exploitation. This causes some kind of slavery of women and their transformation into wage earners under the conditions of the employer, and the implicit complicity of the two parties to be partners in the oppression of women themselves and the adoption of social coercion to satisfy husbands, employers or others.

From socio-economic perspective, the value of women’s economic and social contributions is ignored. Despite their contributions, women are still considered non-productive. Women’s work remains below its actual value from its work within the family to its presence in the various sectors of labor. The absence of systematic programmed investment in their efforts would reduce their productivity and marginalize them disregarding what they actually do.

At the political level

In the real status of the woman, which is full of contradictions, and the conservative attitude towards women’s freedom and their participation in public life, the idea of ​​women’s political participation with parties or unions was no more than a leap forward in the air. Women’s new political position like membership in the parliament or being a minister or head of a trade union, and other prestigious positions in the state or society, is no more than a make-up of the reality of women and the reality of these societies. Even if the situation is repeated or subjected to electoral variables, it does not reflect the reality of women as a whole. No observer can say that women have their freedom and personality in a traditional culture biased against women, and that they live in conditions that are associated with many private and public rights, which can be compared to Western women living in Western culture that reached high level of women’s rights at the level of public awareness. They have influential political influence and their intellectual status as Margaret Thatcher or Teresa May, Marin Le Pen and others who have been able to influence their societies because of their ideas and their political approach whatsoever.

Moreover, there are still women in the parliaments of a number of countries who are not defending themselves or finding solutions to the problems that cause the decay of society and thus impede progress. Not in any country in the world, women have attained real equality with men in terms of political rights although the recognition of these rights is accompanied by a great fuss about democracy and speeches about women’s freedom. But they are actually related to political decisions in the State system to highlight a kind of disguised recognition of women’s rights to external consumption. Anyway, this does not negate that they are the property of others and a source of political, religious and commercial manipulation.

At the level of civil society

Civil society organizations are one of the forms in which the relations between individuals in society and the state, whether they are involved in these numerous organizations or not, they are still limited in their impact and effectiveness in general. Although women play an active role in these organizations with much importance, they still suffer from the weakness of the female component. Many organizations have shown societal imbalances in their composition, not in terms of quota presence of women, but for their inability to build a system of regular relationships that binds their members without distinction to make them a harmonious team, and respond the question of their existence as a number of inactive components.

Despite their own regulations and laws, most organizations haven’t been built as institutions, which are rarely accordant with their actual form.  Good regulations do not always mean good institutions, and this explains the process of selection and marginalization. The phenomena of cronyism, nepotism, corruption, lack of partnership and lack of efficiency and effectiveness, which determine their vitality, dynamism, modus operandi and level of their ability to invest in intellectual competencies and expertise. There is a big problem in the excessive separation – in understanding the comprehensive development – between the economic and social aspects, on the one hand, and the political side on the other, as it constitutes a component that is articulated and decisive in the success of development plans or failure of these plans.

Besides, any interested researcher of the map of the development of civil societies will undoubtedly notice that women’s associations are the most widespread, assuming that women are the most affected by the difficult situations in their society. Engaging in civil society work is supposed to provide women with the confidence and ability to face problems of reality, but this has not happened in most cases as these organizations and women’s unions remained imprisoned by reality in some countries. Women’s role was limited to working within the sectors of chronic problems such as education, health, birth control and family issues for the marginalized and the poor. In view of the results, there was only a slight improvement in the general and private level of the status of women.

Sometimes the problem is that women are controlled by a woman, who carries feelings of weakness, oppression and inferiority, and is controlled by the same cultural structure. Who do women need to object to?  or How will they fight for women’s rights when women are still outside the overall development scope in countries suffering from poverty, deprivation of rights and retrogression?

The Ten recommendations for Development Tracks

Going on the path of development in a scientific, effective and successful way without scientific-strategic planning, and a comprehensive framework of all available elements of development, will be no more than a mere propaganda. The search for means of development requires the elimination of oppression that is imposed on women, whether economic, human or moral, and starting from the first problems affecting the reality of women up to the most recent one. This should be done without ignoring minor details as these minute details affect some of the other bodies that would disrupt development and restrict the presence of women.

This requires many pre-conditions:

First, there should be a compilation of data and statistics for understanding of different female groups and the different aspects of social relationship. We need to make use of these inputs on the basis of concrete practical field evidence and the inalienable right to find solutions that suit every country and society. Compiling data on the situation of rural women is intended to analyze problems and seek solutions is a must.

Second, raising awareness programs for adolescents should be prepared for both genders including sex culture (benefits and risks). These programs will contribute to the development of solutions to the complexity of sex and other various illusions. Knowledge eliminates delusion and relieves women of the idea of ​​sexual submission and the possibility of exploitation and transformation into a means of satisfaction. It also prevents young people from looking at women as a tool of pleasure and a merchandise.

Third, genders coexistence should be increased starting with family and school, moving to the various fields of work to remove the barrier of masculinity and femininity, which makes confluence of genders a taboo. Increased confluence enhances the balance in building sound relations based on mutual respect and fellowship between the two parties, and turning them into homogenous and productive elements without the illusion of superiority over one another or one-sided exploitation.

Fourthly, we need work hard to work out deliberate strategies to counteract claims of cultural privacy, so that they are revealing strategies for errors based on the fact that claims of privacy constitute a real resistance to globalization. Contradictions of globalization must be analyzed and revealed by these strategies. It should be stated that a private speech can take advantage of the bright face of globalization, that is, respect for cultural diversity, rather than a discourse of absolute and authoritarian identity.

Fifth, a balanced work based on strategic plans should be done to eliminate gender discrimination and re-activate the role of women. Such strategy is supposed to include the preparation of awareness programs that are broadcast periodically in the media and other means that are available in the society. Reliance on large-scale workshops, periodical visits to schools to educate generations on human rights in general, and to identify the causes of discrimination and division of functions that prevailed as a result of past variables that have become impossible nowadays.

Sixth, there is a necessity for building a healthy relationship between the two genders, and this requires reviewing all the cultural heritage that hinders the development of women status, and taking all appropriate measures, including legislation, to change existing laws, regulations, customs, practices and factors that constitute nullification and discrimination against women. What has been capitalized as a general culture over successive eras and various concepts according to the different times and historical, societal contexts are all still used as a pressure card to combat liberal ideas that preserve the dominance of such outdated ideas in favor of maintaining subordination of women.

Seventh, rational religious awareness of both genders should be spread since the role of religion in our societies cannot be denied. Religion and its need for a harmonious social life has become a double-edged sword with the spread of fanaticism and extremism, and the calls for the return of women to the house. There is need for restoring the concept of religious tolerance and coexistence as a basis for the formation of generations, and the focus on the role of women is the first barrier against   children’s deviation and the adoption of ideas of extremism and the spread of hatred and rejection of the other.

Eighth, we all need to find solutions and encourage the role of development associations to rehabilitate women’s abilities, develop them, teach them some trades, introduce women to the management of small projects especially in rural areas and qualify them to take their role as products and the pressure to reduce exploitation by employers.

Ninth, awareness programs contribute to women regain of their self-confidence and their salvation from the illusions of society represented in the custody of the man. The German experience after the Second World War, and the Louisa Schroeder initiative, which formed the nucleus of the “Women of the Rubble” who have lifted the rubble of war is a good example of the women’s abilities. German women managed to rebuild Germany through their own volition.

Tenth, Abolition of unjust laws against women like marriage of adolescents, honor crimes, divorce, inheritance, etc. are now a must. Religious terms should be reinterpreted in order to allow women become actual partners, not subjected by unfair texts used for the construction of the family. With the increase of freedom of women, it is necessary to spread the culture of rationalization, institutionalization and formulation of marriage under equal contractual conditions. We also need to work on the development of laws to protect women from harassment in the workplace. legal culture should also be enhanced as part of activating the role of women.

The development of women’s status is an indicator of the development of society itself. Women’s fervent struggle is not against the man, rather it is against an inherited social culture that is deeply rooted in the collective mind of the community. This inherited culture can never be removed without a real cultural and intellectual revolution led by both men and women. Barriers can only be broken through a strong alliance between men and women. Such endeavor requires joint efforts for development whether through state institutions, civil societies, religious, media entities, family care centers, women associations or other types of non-governmental organizations. Only if all these involved parties work together, solutions can be found for the empowerment of women in all fields. Civil societies should take the lead in this grand task of re-constructing society and encouraging women to play a key role and take part in decision-making for a real development.

[1] According to religious concepts, it is a part of the human body that should not be seen by others under any circumstance except for between a husband and wife.

Copyright © 2019 The Middle East and North Africa Media Monitor.