Gender in the Middle East and North Africa: Contemporary Issues and Challenges 9781626378629

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Gender in the Middle East & North Africa

Gender in the Middle East & North Africa Contemporary Issues and Challenges edited by

J. Michael Ryan Helen Rizzo

b o u l d e r l o n d o n

Published in the United States of America in 2020 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 1800 30th Street, Boulder, Colorado 80301

and in the United Kingdom by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. Gray’s Inn House, 127 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1 5DB

© 2020 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Ryan, J. Michael, editor. | Rizzo, Helen Mary, editor. Title: Gender in the Middle East and North Africa : contemporary issues and challenges / edited by J. Michael Ryan & Helen Rizzo. Description: Boulder : Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2020. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019030001 (print) | LCCN 2019030002 (ebook) | ISBN 9781626378384 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781626378629 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Women—Middle East—Social conditions—21st century. | Women—Africa, North—Social conditions—21st century. | Sex role—Middle East. | Sex role—Africa, North. Classification: LCC HQ1726.5 .G443 2020 (print) | LCC HQ1726.5 (ebook) | DDC 305.420956—dc23 LC record available at LC ebook record available at

British Cataloguing in Publication Data A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library.

Printed and bound in the United States of America

The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1992. 5 4 3 2 1



2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

Men, Masculinities, and Gender Relations Shereen El Feki and Gary Barker Gender and Religion Amina Zarrugh

1 13 31

Marriage and Divorce Nadia Sonneveld

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Angie Abdelmonem Female Circumcision J. Michael Ryan


73 93

Gender and Politics Michaelle Browers


Gender and Citizenship Stefanie E. Nanes


Gender and Development Islah Jad






Gender and Migration Alexandra Parrs

11 12 13

Gender and Social Movements Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty

The New Media Activism Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam Rethinking Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa J. Michael Ryan and Helen Rizzo

References The Contributors Index About the Book

173 191 213 235 239 275 277 289

1 Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been of increasing interest for many in the fields of sociology, anthropology, political science, and international relations, as well as others in academia and the general public. The near-constant military incursions, challenges to democratization, threat of regional extremist groups (alQaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS]), rise of regional cities to a level of global prominence (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha), increased funding for international projects coming from the region (most notably from Qatar), and the increasing presence and “concern” over Muslims in the rest of the world are just a few of the reasons for this. One area of growing interest has been the field of gender studies. Much of the work in this field, particularly the early work, focused primarily on women. Charrad (2011) found that research on women in the MENA region has grown dramatically since the late 1960s and especially since 2000. The focus on women was justified by two main objectives: first, to dismantle the stereotype of the silent, passive, subordinate, victimized, and powerless Muslim woman and, second, to challenge the exceptionalism of Islam as a monolithic entity shaping women’s condition in the same way in all places. The urgency of the tasks involved in this endeavor has been heightened by the fact that gender has come to demarcate battle lines in geopolitical struggles since September 11, 2001, and to occupy a central place in the discourse of international relations in regard to the Middle East. (Charrad 2011, 418)



Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

Despite the fact that there are a number of gender-related journals and other academic works addressing this topic and that gender has now become an important subfield in Middle East studies, there is still a lot of work to be done. As globalization, oil dependency, international tourism, political turmoil, and military conflict continue to make the MENA region increasingly interconnected with the rest of the world, changes in how gender is understood in the region are happening at accelerated rates. This makes continuing critical inquiries into this subject of increasing importance. However, using gender as a framing analysis can be a bit misleading as no single demographic should be considered without an intersectional perspective. One must consider not only gender but also race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, family status, age, able-bodiedness, and a variety of other factors in tandem to find any meaningful answers. Thus, while chapters in this volume foreground gender, none does so at the expense of considering other important demographics as well. Our goal, therefore, is to bring together a collection of scholarship into a single volume that tackles a variety of issues at the heart of understanding gender in the Middle East and North Africa and that does so on a regional level rather than on the level of individual countries. This is not to say that some issues do not lend themselves to a focus on a particular country, or set of countries, but that the goal of the volume is to provide a regional analysis of the topics presented to the greatest extent possible. What Is Gender? Although the answer might seem obvious to many who ask it, we want to take the time to address exactly what we mean by gender. Gender is a social system whereby certain social, cultural, political, economic, legal, and other rights, responsibilities, roles, and identities are created, conferred, and enforced. It is a key organizing principle in many societies and, quite arguably, to a greater extent in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa than perhaps in any other region of the world. It is the means by which one is able (or not) to seek employment, get an education, hold political office, and use public space. It is the means by which many are shaped to see the world and the means by which they come to be seen in the world. It is, in short, one of the fundamental notions of how we live our lives, organize our societies, and exist in the world today. It is important to emphasize several things about the way we are using gender. First, gender is not code for sex. Whereas sex has a more

Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa


biological basis—one has a penis or clitoris, XX or XY chromosomes, ovaries or testicles, or something somewhere in between or beyond any of the above—gender has a more social aspect: how we dress, the public and private roles we play, and how we are empowered or policed by a series of ever-changing social regulations. It is true that gender is often tied to sex, but it is not true that they are the same thing. Thus, although this volume will also deal with important elements tied to sex, the focus will be more squarely on the social dimensions of gender. It is also important to note that we are not using gender as code for only women. As we noted, earlier there were important reasons for why women were often the focus in early gender studies scholarship. However, new scholarship highlighted in this volume includes the analysis of men, transgender, or other gender options. As noted above, gender is a social system and one that relies on understanding not just women but also men, other gender options, and the interrelationships between them all. Studying Gender in the MENA Region The contemporary MENA region is an area ripe for the study of gender. For the purposes of this volume, we define the Middle East and North Africa as including the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. All of the contributions in this volume deal with some subset of these countries depending on the relevance of the countries to their topics. Women’s issues in the area have long served as a lightning rod for international discussions including those related to sexual harassment, women driving, burqas and headscarves, female circumcision, and the effects of migration. Many of these issues have served as paradigms of larger philosophical issues related to cultural imperialism versus cultural relativity. The region has also played host to a number of important international conferences and declarations on the rights of women globally, including the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 and the controversial conference on women’s rights held in Saudi Arabia in 2012 where not a single woman was present. In addition to women’s issues, men’s issues have also increasingly become the focus of discussions related to gender in the region. Historically, men have typically been portrayed as the “bad guys” and perpetrators of sexual violence and female oppression. That focus is beginning to


Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

change, however, as more attention is being paid to the effects of economic inequality on men’s roles in society, the effects of violence on men, and the importance of empowering men as agents of change in the battle for gender equality. Rather than simply being seen as unidimensional oppressors, men, and their issues, in the region are now beginning to see attention paid to the complexity of their own lived realities. The MENA region is also one where “alternative” genders, and those who violate their prescribed gender roles, are heavily frowned upon. Ironically, many Westerners visiting the region often remark on the “unusual” ways that gender plays out in the region—rare mixing of the sexes in social settings, men holding hands as a sign of friendship, and a set of complex rules, often tied to religion, that appear to dictate gender in ways that seem foreign to many not familiar with the customs and traditions of the region. Thus, what qualifies as “alternative” in terms of gender roles is an issue that must be taken as culturally relative but one that still has powerful, almost always negative, effects on those who violate them. The region is also an area ripe with the possibilities of intersectional analysis of gender—the impact of religion is particularly strong; race is often unacknowledged but highly influential; economic differences, especially as related to attitudes and opportunities, are poignant; issues of (temporary) female empowerment in light of men’s migrating away and the global care chain related to women’s migrating to the region are pronounced; and the role of women in politics all serve as fruitful areas for understanding how gender intertwines with other demographics. The Role of the Arab Spring In the years since the Arab Spring began in late 2010, women’s status and movements toward gender equality have faced many challenges despite women’s active participation alongside men in protests for economic and social justice and freedom that erupted across the region (Price et al. 2017). The Wilson Center Middle East Program (2016) published the reflections of a panel of country experts on the effects of the Arab Spring for women in the MENA region, but as Fahmia AlFotih of Yemen put it, they generally viewed the region as having been thrown into a “miasma of pandemonium and civil unrest.” In the worst cases, women have been subjected to injustices common to women in times of war, including displacement, abuses, rape, and poverty, particularly in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. While these three countries are representative of one of the main outcomes of the Arab Spring—“state

Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa


failure and civil war”—Hinnebusch (2015, 206) argues that there were two other main outcomes as well: “restoration of a hybrid regime” and “democratic transition,” with Egypt being “iconic” of the former and Tunisia of the latter. More specifically, as Egypt returns to some stability, women have seen themselves left out of the state-building process. One of the major setbacks women have faced in Egypt since 2011 has been their isolation from the formal political decisionmaking process (Price et al. 2017). In the first parliament after the fall of Mubarak, and following the cancellation of the women’s quota law, women’s representation was a mere 1.5 percent (Hatem 2013), and out of an eighty-five-member constituent assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s 2012 constitution, only 7 percent were women (Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights 2013). In the one-year period under President Mohamed Morsi (a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Political Party), 2012–2013, the Islamist-dominated parliament threatened women’s status with discussions of changing the following laws: lowering the legal age for marriage, repealing the 2000 reforms to the personal status law that made it easier for women to end their marriages, lowering the maternal custody age to seven for boys and ten for girls, and easing restrictions on female genital mutilation. Officials in Morsi’s government also downplayed gender-based violence; their response to mob sexual assaults and rapes at protests was to blame the victims by saying that they took the risk of being violently attacked by participating in dangerous protests (Kato 2017). However, longtime women’s rights activists and organizations have had successes in fighting back in Egypt, particularly their strong response to parliamentary threats to reverse decades of progress in women’s rights. These efforts influenced the new constitution of 2014, which was drafted by the Committee of Fifty after Morsi was removed from power in July 2013. The Committee of Fifty was more representative than the previous constitution-drafting committee. While the Committee of Fifty only had five women (10 percent of the members), those women were highly vocal and influential leaders in Egyptian society. As a result, the current constitution is the most progressive constitution in Egyptian history with respect to women’s rights (Kato 2017). Moreover, as Bayat (2015) has noted, because of women’s participation in the 2011 uprising, “women’s extraordinary public presence threatened patriarchal sensibilities, and their public harassment produced one of the most genuine movements in the nation’s recent history.” Partly because of this grassroots pressure against harassment and partly in response to a video widely circulated on social media


Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

exposing how a “blonde girl” was openly assaulted by a mob at Cairo University in June 2014 (Thornhill 2014), interim president Adly Mansour issued a decree to criminalize sexual harassment for the first time (Kingsley 2014). But more recently, there has been a severe crackdown on civil society, making mobilization and expressing dissent extremely difficult across the board. One country that deserves some cautious optimism in terms of women’s status and democratization is Tunisia. Since the start of Tunisia’s Arab Spring uprising in 2010, Tunisia passed a gender parity law in 2011 that requires party lists for national elections to contain an equal number of men and women. As a result, women hold more than 30 percent of the seats in parliament, the highest in Tunisian history, and one of the highest in the region (Mhajne 2018). In 2017, Tunisia passed the Law on Eliminating Violence Against Women, which criminalizes not only physical violence but also economic, sexual, political, and psychological violence. It provides support for survivors to access legal and psychological assistance; contains policies to prevent child labor, public space harassment, and pay discrimination; and criminalizes domestic violence. Also as part of this law, Tunisia became the first in the region to repeal laws that would exonerate the rapist if he married his victim (Mhajne 2018; UN Women 2017). Finally, in late 2017, the Tunisian president repealed a 1973 law prohibiting Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men (Mhajne 2018). In attempts to explain why Tunisia has made greater strides toward democratization and gender equality than other Arab Spring countries, scholars have examined the history of institutionalization of more equal gender relations into the family laws and the long-standing dialogue between opposition groups. According to Mounira Maya Charrad (2014, 4), the Tunisian Code of Personal Status of 1956 was “part and parcel of a larger state building program that aimed at developing a modern centralized state and at marginalizing patriarchal kin-based communities in local areas.” It was a major reform to the family law and is seen by scholars as still one of the most progressive family laws in the Arab world as it abolished polygamy and gave women equal access to divorce as men, with both having to go to court to end a marriage. It launched the era of state feminism in Tunisia until the 1980s when neoliberalism and structural adjustment policies saw the withdrawal of the state from some economic and social welfare activities. This opening saw the emergence of independent women’s organizations and an independent feminist discourse in the 1980s and 1990s alongside state feminism. One of the key issues they focused on was the inability of Tunisian women to pass their citizenship on to their children if they

Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa


were married to foreigners. Their great success of this period was the 1993 reform to the Code of Personal Status allowing women to pass on their citizenship to children born abroad regardless of the nationality of the father (Charrad 2014). Alongside the movements to greater gender equality, steps toward greater democratization began before the 2010–2011 uprising. A key development in the 1980s was that the main Islamist party changed its goal from establishing an Islamic state in Tunisia to supporting the creation of a civil state where public policy and laws would not be based on religion. The party also became more supportive of human rights and gender equality. During this same time period, secular opposition groups became receptive to working with Islamists because of the recognition that they were all being repressed by the regime and that political inclusion would be necessary for a future democratic Tunisia. In 2003 the main opposition groups met in France and agreed that a future democratic government would be based on the sovereignty of the people and that the state would guarantee freedom of belief and expression to all citizens as well as the full equality of men and women. Thus when the 2010–2011 uprising occurred, the opposition parties and long-standing civil society organizations had already established a consensus on what a democratic state would look like post Ben Ali and on the need to continue cross-ideological cooperation, which did not emerge in the Egyptian and Yemeni cases. As a result, when the 2013 Islamist transitional government faced political crisis and popular discontent,1 it was possible for the various groups to reach an agreement on the way forward that maintained the democratic transition process in Tunisia (Durac 2015). Just as the Arab Spring had diverse, gendered outcomes in the MENA region, the following chapters tackle the similarities and differences in the contemporary issues and challenges that countries in the region face and how they are addressing these (or not) in terms of gender relations, gendered institutions and structures, and gender inequalities. The Chapters In the next chapter, Shereen El Feki and Gary Barker contribute to the relatively recent yet growing literature on men and masculinities in the MENA region. Previously, men were often “invisible” as the dominant group and the unmarked “norm” to which women were compared in gender studies. Studying men as gendered subjects, in other words “men as men,” began more recently, in the 1990s. Case studies from around the world began to see men as marked and masculinities as problematic,


Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

no longer assumed as the taken-for-granted norm. Because of the lack of research on men and masculinities in the MENA region until the early 2000s, there has been and continues to be considerable speculation and negative stereotyping about men in and from this region. As a result of the “othering” of Middle Eastern men, their complex lives have been reduced in the West to being violent extremists and/or sexual predators. It is within this context that El Feki and Barker present their results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey, Middle East and North Africa (IMAGES MENA). This household survey and corresponding qualitative research comprise the largest study of its kind to assess how men in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Palestine see their lives at work and at home—as husbands, fathers, and sons—and the social changes they are currently experiencing. IMAGES MENA complements a growing body of ethnographic research on men and masculinities across the Middle East and North Africa. Together they reveal the complexity of men’s lives, both supporting and refuting stereotypes of patriarchy in public and private life. In Amina Zarrugh’s chapter, “Gender and Religion,” she examines how the everyday life experiences of women and men in the Middle East and North Africa are shaped by relationships between gender and religion, particularly as they are affected by states and local communities. Experiences throughout one’s life, such as career opportunities, marriage, and citizenship rights, are influenced by a complex intersection of gender and religion that varies across history, political systems, and states. Thus her chapter focuses on the state and local communities because they play important roles in managing, legislating, and enforcing gender norms as well as in shaping understandings of religion’s role in the community. The structure of her chapter begins with a discussion of the demography and diversity in the MENA region and how they affect conceptions of gender and religion. Then she reviews the scholarship on gender and religion in the MENA region and concludes with a discussion of local social movements that address the relationship between gender and religion in the region. In her chapter, “Marriage and Divorce,” Nadia Sonneveld discusses the important changes that have occurred in marriage and divorce patterns over the past forty years. These include delayed first marriages for both men and women, legal and accessible unilateral no-fault divorce being more available to women, and old and new forms of informal marriage that exist next to formal ones. She argues that while the changes in marriage and divorce patterns in the Middle East and North Africa are not surprising given global trends, what is significant is the different ways they are understood by actors on legal, religious, and

Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa


social levels. Her main argument explains why in the Middle East and North Africa the gain from marriage is still high, despite the profound changes in societal, legal, and religious understandings of marriage. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a prevalent problem that crosscuts borders, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, class, and age and is not unique to or absent from the MENA region, though its prevalence rate varies by context. The taboo, shame, and victim-blaming behavior associated with SGBV serves to silence people and prohibits a better understanding of how ubiquitous the problem is and how it is variously expressed across contexts. In her chapter on sexual and genderbased violence, Angie Abdelmonem explores the salient features and issues around SGBV in the MENA region, with attention to how violence affects both women and men, as well as those who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). The chapter also includes a poignant examination of the patriarchal basis of SGBV, exploring how this has been linked to codes of honor and shame emerging from tribal society but persisting even within urban systems. The issue of culture and cultural relativism as it relates to SGBV is also foregrounded as are examples from various MENA countries to exemplify the scope of violence across these heterogeneous cultural spaces. Female circumcision, sometimes also called female genital cutting or female genital mutilation, has become one of the most contentious issues in global politicking. More than simply a political issue, it has become a moral crusade, a lightning rod for discussions of ethnocentrism and imperial policy pushing, and a debate whose outcome affects the lives of millions of the world’s most vulnerable peoples. J. Michael Ryan tackles this sensitive issue in his chapter, “Female Circumcision.” The chapter includes a discussion of the different types of female circumcision and their prevalence, consequences, and potential complications; the debates surrounding the terminology used to refer to this sensitive cultural practice; and the ties, or not, to religious ideologies. Ryan also includes a discussion of various strategies that have been employed to attempt to eradicate female circumcision and the debate surrounding these attempts as either cultural imperialism or excessive moral relativism. We then have Michaelle Browers’s chapter, “Gender and Politics,” in which she argues that many of the struggles for women’s equality and greater access to political institutions and power in the region took the form of “state feminism.” This was exemplified by the fact that “‘revolutions from above’ pursued by republican regimes in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria often contained social welfare provisions that ‘offered explicit commitment to public equality for


Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

women’ and undertook ‘state feminism as a legal, economic and ideological strategy to introduce changes in Egyptian society and its gender relations’” (Hatem 1992, 231). While the state was instrumental in granting women greater access to politics, citizenship rights, education, and the workplace, there were still limitations to this form of feminism. In several countries, state feminism “empowers some women and neglects others,” rendering various subgroups (rural, lower class, religious, and/or “traditional” women) “dominated or excluded” (Yacoubi 2016, 260; Hatem 1992). Moreover, gains that were imposed from above were often reversed in times of conflict (e.g., Iraq) or when the state retreated from its commitments to social and economic equality when economic and political liberalization policies began in the 1980s. Women today still face discrimination from the society at large, political parties, and institutions when attempting to gain full access to formal politics such as running for elected political office. However, her chapter ends on a more optimistic note by looking at two forms of youth feminist activism that are trying to break down patriarchal and authoritarian bargains: anti–sexual harassment activism in Egypt and street theater in Tunisia. Stefanie E. Nanes examines in her chapter, “Gender and Citizenship,” the challenges of extending full citizenship rights under nondemocratic conditions. At a basic level she argues that “Citizenship delineates membership in a territorially bounded political community. Citizenship defines a relationship between individuals, their political community, and the state. Finally, and most importantly . . . citizenship endows these members with equal rights and obligations.” More specifically, her focus in this chapter is on women’s dispossession of these citizenship rights across the MENA region. Further, she argues that even though implementing citizenship rights under authoritarian conditions is difficult, that does not make these rights any less applicable. The evidence of this comes from the region itself, where the demands of participants of the Green Movement protests in Iran in 2009 and the Arab Spring uprisings that emerged in 2010–2011 as well as the ongoing women’s movements in many of these countries fall perfectly in line with demands for full citizenship and gender equality. In her chapter, “Gender and Development,” Islah Jad argues that there is a blurred policy on gender and development in the region. Since the end of what was called “state feminism” in the seventies and the prevailing of structural adjustment policies, the Arab world has been following haphazard policies driven mostly by donor funding and government opportunism in seeking this funding without interest in empowering people or women. Jad also argues that conflict and authoritarian-

Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa


ism in the Arab region have put serious limitations on the ability of national mechanisms in the region to effect change in the field of gender and development. The use by national mechanisms of the discourse of “women’s rights” as human rights puts many of these state mechanisms in a precarious situation. It is perceived that advocating for women’s rights through these means, while other political and civic rights are violated, undermines the integrity of these national mechanisms and places doubt on their ability to effect genuine change. The fact that most of these national mechanisms are controlled by a member of the ruling elite leaves little opportunity for them to play a critical or influential role visà-vis other governmental policies and practices. Alexandra Parrs argues in her chapter, “Gender and Migration,” that population movements are factors that affect the meaning of national belonging; ethnic and racial identifications; and political, social, and economic processes. Global mobility is also increasingly becoming a gendered process and, as such, affects gender relations, the gendered division of labor, and gendered institutions like the family. These outcomes are particularly salient in the MENA region where, traditionally, migrants were male laborers who temporarily left their families behind in search of better economic opportunities. Parrs provides a review of different aspects of migration within, from, and to the region, and examines the impact of financial and social remittances as well as the challenges to patriarchal structures brought about by migration within, from, and to that region. She also looks at the state of asylum seeking and refugeeness, specifically for women. By drawing on empirical studies, Parrs highlights recent trends in the area of gender and migration, such as the impact migration has on socialization, education, family formation, and women’s empowerment in general, but also presents more theoretical debates about new practices and meanings created by migratory movements. In the chapter “Gender and Social Movements,” Anne M. Price and Chelsey Marty tackle the contradiction that even though women in the MENA region have a long and established history of activism, whether mobilizing specifically around women’s issues or by moving into the public sphere to participate in social movements alongside men, their participation was previously overlooked in the academic literature, at least partially due to a Western academic view of women in the region as universally oppressed. Moreover, prior to the Arab Spring uprisings, many scholars believed that social movements as they were defined in the West did not exist in the region. The MENA region was considered by many to be too authoritarian and repressive for movements to form. To refute these claims, their chapter focuses on the following questions: What are the targets of contemporary women’s movements in the region?


Helen Rizzo and J. Michael Ryan

How have the Arab Spring uprisings affected women’s activism and their ability to successfully mobilize to achieve their goals? For what reasons have women’s movements in the MENA region been historically overlooked? Thus, their chapter examines the ways women mobilize in the region, the issues of contention for women, and the ways women are responding to these issues. Since at least 2009, as protesters in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Turkey poured into the streets to express dissatisfaction with their governments, the international community has been able to peer into their world via bloggers and citizen journalists whose video clips taken by their mobile phones and transported into Web 2.0 sites that are interactive and collaborative, such as blogs, social media, and social networking sites (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), have become a source of news. Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam explore this fascinating issue in their chapter, “The New Media Activism.” They examine women’s media activism in the region’s social upheavals, with a focus on four country cases: Iran’s Green Movement protests and its feminist movement; the 2011 political revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and women’s campaigns since then; and the gradualist movement in Morocco for women’s rights and democratization. This timely chapter shows that women’s cyberactivism, their citizen journalism, and their self-organization both contribute to and reflect the social and political changes that have occurred in the region. Note 1. One of the controversies came from the first draft of the 2012 constitution that had the phrasing, “women as complementary to men in family life,” which was later removed because of pressure from activists who saw it as a threat to women’s rights and gender equality. The ratified 2014 constitution explicitly guarantees gender equality and equal rights for women and men.

2 Men, Masculinities, and Gender Relations Shereen El Feki and Gary Barker

In the summer of 2017, the Arabic music charts saw the debut of two songs by male artists with dramatically different tones on male-female relations. “Al Ragul” (“The Man”) by Egyptian singer Ramy Sabry was pure patriarchal pop, from the gold and glittery moustache of its cover art to its unabashedly sexist lyrics. “I want to tell you something, so listen to what I say/When a man is talking, a woman should obey/She shouldn’t yes with words she will forget the next day/She should appreciate his value if she wants him to stay,” went Sabry’s advice, to a pumping beat (El Feki 2017). “Al Ragul” is just one in a long line of macho melodies, including the controversial hit “Jomhoureyet Albi” (“Republic of My Heart”)—“Our girls are to be spoiled and pampered/Your job is my love and affection, you won’t have time to do other things . . . /Because you are the queen of my heart”— that have infuriated women’s rights activists for years (France 24 2010). In contrast, “Roman,” by Lebanese indie band Mashrou’ Leila, was music to their ears. Mashrou’ Leila is no stranger to social commentary in their music, tackling issues such as pressure on young people to marry or the stigma surrounding homosexuality (the band’s lead singer is one of the very few celebrities in the Arab region who is openly gay). “Roman” continues the theme, using the Roman colonization of Phoenicia as a metaphor for male domination in modern Lebanese society. While its lyrics are allusive (“I don’t intend to swallow your lies/The words would sting my throat/I won’t dissect your intentions/You can keep your tongue in its cage”), there is no mistaking the imagery of the music video: a cast of women in hijab, niqab, and abaya dancing in a 13


Shereen El Feki and Gary Barker

bold, contemporary style, celebrating their bodies and asserting their freedom, while the men of Mashrou’ Leila flit across the screen as minor players to the formers’ star turn (Khalife 2017). This snapshot of popular culture neatly reflects the mixed picture of men, masculinities, and gender relations in the Middle East and North Africa today. Paradoxically, men in the region are something of a mystery. Although they are the pillars of public and private patriarchies, relatively little is known, in robust empirical terms, about how they see themselves, the women in their lives, or the changing world around them. This is because gender in the Arab region has distinctly female features: most government policies, civil society programs, and academic research focus on women and girls. And rightly so, since they are on the receiving end of a range of norms and values, laws and practices aimed at holding them in check. In the absence of information, there is considerable speculation about men in and from the Arab region. The “othering” of Arab men as violent extremists and sexual predators has gained ground in recent years, with both the influx of migrants and refugees from the region to Western Europe, North America, and Australasia, and the concomitant rise of right-wing populism in these regions (De Hart 2017). The margins have come to define the mainstream and now shape public policy for millions of men—witness President Trump’s attempted “Muslim ban” or the fatal attraction of Alternative für Deutschland, Germany’s main opposition party with its overt anti-immigrant and Islamophobic stance. Such is the context of this chapter, which presents results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey, Middle East and North Africa (IMAGES MENA). This household survey and companion qualitative research comprise the largest study of its kind to assess how men in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Palestine see their lives at work and at home—as husbands, fathers, and sons—and the changing world around them. IMAGES MENA complements a growing body of ethnographic research on men and masculinities across the Middle East and North Africa. Together they reveal the complexity of men’s lives, both supporting and subverting stereotypes of patriarchy in public and private life. Proper Study of Mankind Masculinities as a concept and lens provides a perspective on men as gendered subjects bound by rules and norms around them, pressured to perform versions of masculinities even as they themselves are often not even aware of such external forces (Connell 2005). The concept of and

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the attention on men as gendered beings allow for a framing of men beyond the harm that some cause to women and children, to their existence as individuals with their own gendered needs and realities. In the context of international development and gender studies, there has been growing recognition of the role of masculinities in shaping men’s identities, attitudes, and practices, and increasing agreement that engaging men and boys must be a key part of the global gender equality agenda (Greig, Kimmel, and Lang 2000). The emerging field of masculinities studies emphasizes an understanding of gender as relational and structural, and highlights the multiplicity, hierarchy, and changing nature of masculinities in the context of historical, social, and material realities (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). It seeks to understand how men are socialized, how men’s roles are socially constructed (in constant interaction with women’s roles), how these roles and power dynamics change over the life cycle and in different social contexts, and how they shape men’s actions and practices (Connell 1995). This perspective considers men as capable of change (and masculinities as changing and changeable), and indeed, sees men as necessary partners integral to creating social change around gender equality (Connell 2005). A key focus of recent research on men and masculinities has been on change and fluidity—using in part Judith Butler’s concept of gender as performance—and examining whether men in some parts of the world are “buying into” the global gender equality discourse, that is performing and living more equitable notions of manhood. There is research from some settings documenting the emergence of new, less oppressive, and more equitable forms of masculinities, in which gender equality discourses have influenced a concept of hegemonic masculinity that is “less authoritarian, less violent, more emotional, and more gender equality oriented than other and earlier masculinities” (Hearn et al. 2012, 47). Such examples can be found not only in the industrialized West but also in the Global South, where men are redefining new and more equitable ways of being men (Barker 2000; Sideris 2004). Emerging evidence from international surveys also suggests that men’s attitudes (on a limited range of issues) are becoming more equitable over time: for example, a recent longitudinal analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data in fifteen low- and middle-income countries found significant and substantial increases in most countries in the percentage of men who rejected justifications of violence against women (Pierotti 2013). At the same time, studies also document the persistence (and emergence or reemergence) of aggressive and violent aspects of masculinity, sometimes linking these masculinities to men’s poverty or inability to fulfill the provider role (Aboim 2009).


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Indeed, some research documents a deep sense of ambivalence about gender equality and even backlash against it among some men in some settings. This ambivalence may reflect uneasiness with changing dynamics of gender relations and public discourses about gender equality, with men sometimes viewing women’s newly empowered position as marginalizing and disempowering to them (Dworkin et al. 2012). National and international discourses around gender equality—as well as policies and programs to promote it—are constantly reshaping masculinities and gender relations at multiple levels: in terms of men’s identities, in their interactions, and at the macro level. These changes can result in men’s experiencing (and reporting) ambivalence or conflicting feelings about gender equality—perhaps supporting it as a concept but rejecting the day-to-day implications in their own lives or relationships (Barker and Verani 2008). “Men’s rights” groups and a more “angry man” discourse have also emerged in some parts of the world and have influenced electoral outcomes, notably in the United States (Kimmel 2013). Exploring the variation in men’s attitudes to understand why some men are more supportive of gender equality and nonviolence is an important step toward engaging men in this process and implementing appropriate policies. Much of the literature that has examined variations in attitudes related to gender equality draws (often implicitly) on theories related to men’s exposure or socialization, positing that men who are exposed to more equitable households, to more educated mothers, and to less violence are more likely to internalize and support equality. Studies about violence also draw on exposure and socialization theories, documenting the “inter-generational transmission of violence” whereby men who experienced violence in their childhood home have a greater likelihood of perpetrating violence as adults (Flood and Pease 2009; Heise 1998). In the Global South, analyses of the Demographic and Health Surveys and the World Values Survey generally suggest that greater exposure to gender equality (through higher education, urbanization, or media access) and to women in nontraditional roles leads to more equitable attitudes. For example, an analysis of men’s and women’s attitudes in seventeen African countries showed that increasing educational attainment, wealth status, urbanization, access to media, and joint decisionmaking were associated in most countries with lower odds that men would justify violence against women (Uthman, Lawoko, and Moradi 2009). The concept of masculinities, and associated fields of research, have grown up alongside the creation and growth of a field of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and UN initiatives to work with men on HIV

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prevention, gender-based violence, and fatherhood, among other topics, as a space for program interventions and activism. Now with nearly twenty years of program experience, impact evaluations of some of these initiatives show that engaging men with a notion of transforming social norms can lead to changes in men’s attitudes and practices (Peacock and Barker 2014). These experiences confirm at the level of program interventions—campaigns, group education, counseling, training for public sector workers to reach men, and others—that men can and do change. Setting the Scene While there is a rich vein of popular commentary in Arabic on the state of men today—in books, newspapers, TV, and social media—empirical research on masculinities is less common. The landscape of research literature on men and masculinities in the four IMAGES MENA countries is dotted with concentrations of studies on particular topics, like oases in a desert, surrounded by vast tracts of unexplored terrain.1 There are a handful of studies that look at masculinities in multiple dimensions. Among the most comprehensive is Live and Die Like a Man, by Farha Ghannam (2013), a multigenerational study of men in a lower-income area of Cairo that follows the “trajectory of masculinity” through the lens of men’s bodies and their experiences. Egypt in the Future Tense, by Samuli Schielke (2015), looks at the lives of rural men against the backdrop of the rise and fall of the Arab Spring. Like Ghannam’s book, it shows the challenges facing young men with few economic opportunities to realize socially sanctioned ideals of manhood. In Morocco, Vers une nouvelle masculinité au Maroc (Toward a New Masculinity in Morocco), by Abdessamad Dialmy (2009), examines a cross section of male civil servants and their attitudes toward changes in women’s roles and rights, in public and private life. Among its notable findings is that older men, in many cases, hold more open attitudes toward women’s rights than their younger counterparts, an unexpected triumph of experience over hope (Dialmy 2009). Men and family life have been studied from a number of angles, among them young men’s search for love and marriage in the face of the practical challenges of courtship and intimacy in religiously conservative settings on the one hand and the economic pressures of the “marriage market” on the other (Kreil 2016; Norbakk 2014). Male desire for and experiences of fatherhood have opened a similarly rich vein of insight into men’s lives. The New Arab Man, by Marcia Inhorn (2012), builds on decades of field research on men’s attitudes toward infertility and their


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engagement with assisted reproductive technologies in Egypt, Lebanon, and further afield in the Middle East and North Africa. Assisted reproductive technologies, and the challenge to conventional notions of virility that they represent, provide a novel lens through which to examine what Inhorn calls “emergent masculinities”—ways that the definition of what it is to be a man changes in response to shifts in individual and wider social circumstances, in opposition to fixed notions of patriarchal power (Inhorn and Isidoros 2018). A related line of research on men and family life is developed in Nurturing Masculinities, a study by Nefissa Naguib (2015) on men’s practices around food—shopping, cooking, feeding—across a wide social spectrum in Egypt, illustrating another facet of alternative masculinities. Further research on masculinities through this “caregiving” lens includes studies of fatherhood, food culture in Palestinian communities, and other subjects (Gokani, Bogossian, and Akesson 2015; Gvion 2011). A number of studies look at masculinities as represented in art and culture. Samira Aghacy’s (2009) Masculine Identity in the Fiction of the Arab East Since 1967 challenges stereotypes of men and masculinities through analysis of almost two dozen contemporary novels. Fathers and Sons in the Arab Middle East by Dalya Cohen-Mor (2013) draws on fiction, memoirs, and poetry from across the region to question traditional framings of paternal-filial relations. Queer Maroc, by Jean Zaganiaris (2014), looks at sexual diversity as represented in Moroccan literature, challenging conventional framings of suppressed diversity. In a related vein, there are a number of recent studies on historical masculinities: Working Out Egypt, by Wilson Chacko Jacob (2011), on the development of “effendi masculinity” in late nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury Egypt; For Better, for Worse, by Hanan Kholoussy (2010), examining the “marriage crisis” facing men in early twentieth-century Egypt and its parallel to twenty-first-century debates on the rising cost of marriage; and Industrial Sexuality, by Hanan Hammad (2016), exploring the impact of interwar industrialization on gender roles and identities, again in Egypt. There is a significant body of research on masculinities and political violence in IMAGES MENA countries.2 The 2011 uprisings in Egypt and their attendant controversies with regard to women in public spaces, and the crackdown on nonconforming masculinities, have prompted a number of studies looking at the intersection of state power and male agency. Among them are The Security Archipelago (2013) and related works by Paul Amar, as well as other research looking at masculinities and women’s rights during the Arab Spring and the rise of male protest movements, such as the football-affiliated Ultras (Amar

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2011a; Hafez 2012; Hamzeh and Sykes 2014; Rommel 2016). A number of studies have examined how men balance memories of glory in Tahrir Square with grittier post-uprising economic and political realities (Abdalla 2014; Norbakk 2017; Rommel 2017). Decades of occupation in Palestine have produced a substantial body of research looking at the impact of political repression on men’s perceptions of country, community, family, and masculine identity (Dayyat 2016; Malmström 2016; Muhanna 2013; Spielberg, Dajani, and Abdallah 2016; Yaish 2010). Similarly, the intersection of conflict and masculinities in Lebanon has been extensively studied across two central axes: the impact of the Lebanese civil war on masculinities and gender relations, and a more recent avenue of research exploring the effects of conflict and exile on male refugees and particularly the impact of economic displacement on masculinities and domestic relations (Fincham 2014; IMC and Abaad 2013; IRC 2016; Myrttinen, Khattab, and Naujoks 2016; Quist 2016; Suerbaum 2017). Intimately linked to research on political and public violence is the emerging body of work on masculinities and gender-based violence (GBV) in the four IMAGES MENA countries. While most such research focuses on women’s attitudes and experiences, there is a small but growing collection of studies on men’s attitudes and practices related to GBV. In Egypt, there are a number of groundbreaking studies on the role of men as both perpetrators and victims of sexual harassment, and as activists for its elimination, in the Arab Spring and its aftermath (Fernandez 2015; Henry 2017; Rizzo 2014; Tadros 2016). The intersection of masculinities and traditional cultural practices is also a nascent field of study, including work on female circumcision in Egypt, child marriage among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and honorrelated violence in Lebanese and Palestinian communities (Abdelshahid and Campbell 2015; Abu Jaber 2010; Bartels et al. 2018; Baydoun 2011; Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 2010; Khoury-Kassabri 2016; Mourtada, Schlecht, and DeJong 2017). Male perspectives on spousal violence have also been explored in Palestinian and Lebanese contexts (Ghossain 2011; Haj-Yahia et al. 2015; Obeid, Chang, and Ginges 2010; Usta, Farver, and Hamieh 2016). Men and sexualities is a similarly fertile field. There is a growing body of literature on gay, bisexual, and trans masculinities in IMAGES MENA countries, including such works as Queer Beirut by Sofian Merabet (2014) and “Les masculinités au Maroc” (“Masculinities in Morocco”) by Gianfranco Rebucini (2009) on same-sex relations in Marrakech. Additional studies include examinations of male homosexuality, transsexuality, and masculine identity in Arab history, social


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media, civil society movements, and other fields (Al-Daif and Helfer 2015; Gagné 2016; Mohamed 2015; Moussawi 2011; Rizk and Makarem 2015; Walsh-Haines 2012). There is, in fact, considerably more research on men’s nonheteronormative alternative sexualities and gender identities in IMAGES MENA countries than there is on heterosexual men. It may seem paradoxical that identities and practices that are socially and legally proscribed would be better documented than the socially accepted norm, but this stems in part from an early interest in the region in HIV, which has provided a socially respectable cover of public health to address an otherwise taboo subject, and in part from a legacy of Western historical interest in the region and current global LGBT activism. Aside from clinical research on male sexual dysfunction, there is relatively little research on male heterosexuality beyond studies on men and pornography, on male sex work with female tourists in holiday resorts, and on young men’s attitudes toward sex and family planning (Abdalla 2015; Guijarro, Shquier, and Olivella 2015; Karkabi 2011). In His Own IMAGES It is against this backdrop that IMAGES MENA was conducted between 2015 and 2017. IMAGES was created by Promundo and the International Center for Research on Women in 2008, and has since grown to become the world’s largest and most comprehensive study on what men think about gender equality, women’s empowerment, and being men. Versions of IMAGES have been carried out in nearly forty countries including in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia, with related surveys in the United States, United Kingdom, and northern Europe. So far, nearly 60,000 interviews have been carried out with men and women, aged eighteen to fifty-nine, over the span of their active reproductive and child-rearing lives. The study consists of a household survey and companion qualitative research (focus group discussions and in-depth interviews); according to internationally recognized bioethical standards, interviews are conducted by researchers of the same sex as the respondents, and no more than one respondent is interviewed per household. Wherever possible, research protocols are approved by local or international institutional review boards. IMAGES MENA was conducted with nearly 10,000 men and women across four countries, as prioritized by UN Women, the study’s strategic partner in the region, and the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency, its key funder. The selection of countries reflects the diversity of men’s (and women’s) experiences across the region, includ-

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ing wide-sweeping political, social, and economic changes shaping men’s views of their own masculinity: Egypt, the most populous country in the region, struggling in the wake of the 2011 uprisings; Lebanon, a sectarian society with one of the world’s largest refugee populations, as well as a complex history of civil war and ongoing conflict; Morocco, whose landmark 2004 reforms of the Mudawanna (Personal Status Code) and strong women’s rights movement contend with a powerful tide of religious conservatism in public and private life; and Palestine, shaped by decades of Israeli occupation, conflict, and insecurity. The household surveys used stratified multistage cluster sampling, and the focus group discussions and in-depth interviews relied on convenience sampling. In Lebanon and Palestine, the household survey was conducted with nationally representative populations; in the former, this included both Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees (due to security constraints, Palestinian refugees were interviewed in the companion qualitative research), and in the latter, the survey included populations in Gaza and the West Bank. In Egypt, the survey was fielded with representative populations in five urban and rural governorates; and in Morocco, the survey was conducted in the Rabat-Salé-Kénitra region, whose diversity reflects the country’s wider social mosaic. In each of the four countries, fieldwork was conducted by local academic institutions and civil society organizations.3 Although these local partners represent a wealth of experience on women’s rights, engaging with men and boys is a new field for the majority of them; for example, the Men Engage Alliance, which brings together more than 700 NGOs from around the world focused on men, boys, and gender equality, has just one member organization in the Middle East and North Africa. Not only did this collaboration enable local partners to gain familiarity with and capacity in working on men and masculinities, their local knowledge was indispensable to tailoring the quantitative and qualitative questionnaires to local needs and interests. For example, a number of new modules were added to the household questionnaire to address issues of particular relevance to the region—the impact of migration on gender roles, attitudes toward gendered laws and policies, and women’s participation in public life, as well as countryspecific issues, such as men’s roles in decisionmaking on female genital cutting (in Egypt) and the impact of occupation (Palestine). Research partners were also central to translating the questionnaires into local Arabic dialects to optimize acceptance by respondents. Further local input came from in-country advisory boards—strategic consultative groups—comprised of representatives of government ministries, civil society, academia, and UN agencies who were instrumental in laying


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the groundwork for the launch of the study findings and subsequent uptake into policymaking and programming. The IMAGES MENA household survey and qualitative questionnaires cover a wide array of topics and offer a well-rounded view of the lives of men in their communities. Among the issues covered are physical and psychological health and health care–seeking practices, including sexual and reproductive health; work and work-related stress; attitudes toward and experiences of marriage and divorce; household decisionmaking and division of labor, as children and adults; participation in childcare and child discipline; attitudes toward gender norms, gender-related policies and laws, including women in public life; perpetration and experience of, and attitudes related to, gender-based violence in public and private spaces. While these issues have been addressed in a number of nationally representative surveys of women in the four countries, IMAGES MENA is the first time many such issues have been broached with men in these communities. Although local research partners initially expressed some concern as to the likelihood that men would respond to questions about such sensitive and, at times, intimate matters, response rates of 90 percent or more amply demonstrated just how pressing many men find these issues. Below is a selection of snapshots from this vast album of men’s attitudes and practices toward gender roles and rights. A Man’s a Man for All That As with “gender” and “sexuality,” there is no universally recognized word in Arabic for “masculinity” (El Feki 2013). Development specialists speak of huwayyat al rijal al jindiriyya, or men’s gendered identities, but this mouthful is prone to misinterpretation and is not widely understood; more commonly used is al rajulah, which translates more precisely to “manliness.” Whatever the terminology, the participants of IMAGES MENA were clear on what makes a man—and what does not. Forty percent or more of male respondents disagreed that “to be a man you need to be tough”; nor was sexual potency considered an essential hallmark of manhood by many in the survey. Most significant in their eyes was a man’s capacity to take responsibility: the father who protects his family; the neighbor who helps keep the peace; the brother who supports his siblings; the husband who looks after his wife. Indeed, as one female respondent in Morocco summed it up, “To be a man is to be responsible. And as I have to take care of everything, I feel that I am a man” (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017,

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100). Religion was particularly important to many men in defining the “rightful” attributes of both sexes, drawing on the Quranic verse, “Husbands should take good care of their wives with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money” (Quran 4:34). Apart from responsibility, the other hallmark of masculinity was freedom—to travel, to make decisions for oneself, to act without the degree of family control or censure exercised on women. But such liberty comes at a price: the social and religious obligation to provide financially for the family. In line with IMAGES findings elsewhere in the world, the men in this survey defined themselves first and foremost as breadwinners, as did the women in their lives (Fleming et al. 2013). But in the context of struggling economies and high unemployment, men are increasingly feeling the strain. Between a fifth and half of men across the four countries reported feeling stressed, depressed, and ashamed about a lack of work or income and worried about providing their family with daily necessities; around a quarter also met standard screening criteria for depression. “Before, it was he who ran the show, who provided for the needs of the family and ruled from the heart of his house. Now he commands no more,” one male respondent in Rabat explained, expressing the views of many men and women in the study (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 99). This economic imperative shapes men’s views of women’s place in the world. While two-thirds or more of the men surveyed considered it just as much of a priority to educate girls as boys, a similar proportion thought that it was more important for a woman to marry than to have a career and that, when jobs are scarce, men should have access to work before women. It is not just men who cling to these patriarchal notions either: while more than three-quarters of women insisted on their right to work, a majority also agreed with their male counterparts about the importance of marriage for women and the priority of work for men. Such ideas translate into practice: across the Arab region, less than 25 percent of women on average are in the formal workforce—one of the lowest rates of female labor force participation in the world (Economic and Social Commission for West Asia [ESCWA] 2012). Men’s views on women at work were often contradictory. More than 60 percent of male respondents agreed that a woman with the same qualifications as a man can do as good a job, and three-quarters or more supported equal pay for men and women in the same position; indeed, between half and three-quarters of men were also willing to work for a female boss. On the other hand, many men in the study described women’s economic empowerment as a threat to their masculine


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role as breadwinners and, therefore, their authority within the home. “If the wife stayed at home to look after her children and her husband, the man would recover his masculinity and he would become a real man,” observed a male respondent in the Rabat region (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 101). This economic pressure is compounded by conflict and displacement. In Lebanon, Syrian refugee men were between two and three times more likely than Lebanese men to report that they had ever been arrested, imprisoned, or detained by police, or to have experienced some form of physical violence in public spaces (either in their home country or elsewhere). Syrian refugee women and men in Lebanon alike reported that men, in particular, felt a sense of lost masculine identity. At least part of this mental stress was a result of men’s not being able to fulfill their socially prescribed role as financial providers. As one male refugee in Lebanon remarked, “A man who can’t fulfill his role as a provider loses his value to society. People see us as weak and powerless; I’m seen as less of a man” (Keedi, Yaghi, and Barker 2017, 20). In Palestine, more than three-fifths of men reported having experienced one or more of a dozen forms of occupation-related violence within the past five years, in line with national survey data (Palestine Central Statistics Bureau 2011). Men were more likely than women to report having lost land; having been harassed, detained, or injured by soldiers or settlers; having difficulty accessing health services; and having lost work or educational opportunities due to the occupation. The near universal fear that the Palestinian men in this study expressed for their safety was echoed in the other countries in the study, with comparable numbers also anxious about their family’s future. Man About the House Between 50 and 90 percent of male respondents were firmly of the opinion that men should have the final say in household decisions. Such attitudes translate into action; majorities of men also reported that husbands and fathers are the ultimate arbiters in such household matters as children’s schooling or major household purchases. There is, however, an element of “he said/she said” to such findings, insofar as men claimed to have a greater say than women in fact acknowledged, the latter being more likely to report sharing such decisions with their spouse. Women did, however, attest to less control over their decision to marry the person they wanted, when they wanted, with fathers’ having the final say in most cases. While men have more autonomy when it comes to selecting

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a spouse, choice comes with consequences: up to 70 percent of men reported that the cost of marriage was a burden to them and their families, in a cultural climate where men are expected to pay for the big white wedding and beyond. As one young man in Ramallah explained, “The man has to bring a house and a dowry and a car, and has to have a job; he needs to have established himself to be able to marry. This would mean he would be seventy when he has achieved all this.” “How do you expect a man to do all this at a certain age? . . . This is pressure on the man” (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 226). Forty percent or more of men in the survey believed it is perfectly acceptable for men to engage in childcare or take on housework. However, as time-use surveys across the region have also noted, the vast majority of the daily care of children and other household tasks are carried out by women, in all four countries (HCP 2012; Palestine Central Statistics Bureau 2013). Just one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently performed a “conventionally female” task in their home, such as preparing food or cleaning. Some men were more involved than others: those whose fathers had participated in conventionally feminine household work, as well as men who were taught to do this work as children, were far more likely to report contributing in this way within their own marriages. Men who break the mold were, more often than not, eager to keep these private departures from the masculine norm from the public eye. As one man in Rabat explained, “I find it relaxing when I do the dishes, especially after mentally taxing work; [but] for other men, it’s shameful to enter the kitchen because it will weaken their masculinity and discredit them” (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 121). While they may be missing in action when it comes to housework, men are enthusiastic fathers. Such engagement starts early: more than 70 percent of men in all the countries reported accompanying their wives to at least one prenatal visit and similar proportions were present at the delivery of their youngest child—in the same building, if not the same room, due to cultural restrictions. Up to 80 percent of men were also in favor of paid paternity leave of up to two weeks.4 How men might use this time remains to be seen; a fifth or less of male respondents claimed to have engaged in the nitty-gritty of baby care. They were, however, much more involved in the lives of older children, including feeding, supervising, and playing with them. Around two-fifths or more of men in all four countries reported talking with their children about important personal matters in their lives; this points to an emotional intimacy not always associated with masculine behavior. In all of the countries surveyed, half or more of the men reported


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that their work takes time away from being with their children—a widely regretted fact of life. Cycles of Violence As several national surveys on GBV have shown, experiences of genderbased violence, particularly intimate partner violence and sexual harassment in the streets, are common for women across the region (Duvvury et al. 2015; HCP 2009; Palestine Central Statistics Bureau 2011); IMAGES MENA is the first large-scale household survey in the Arab region to investigate not only men’s attitudes toward GBV but also their self-reported perpetration. Across the four countries in the study, around 10 percent to 45 percent of ever-married men reported ever having used physical violence against a female partner, with approximately equal proportions of women affirming they had experienced this violence. Equally harmful to women’s lives are high rates of emotional violence: between 20 percent and 80 percent of men reported ever having perpetrated some form of emotional violence against their wives. Domestic violence is not confined to spouses. Between 29 percent and 50 percent of men and 40 percent to 80 percent of women across the survey countries reported using some form of physical punishment or other forms of violence against their own children. Women’s higher rates of physical punishment of children are clearly a function of the fact that women carry out the majority of the caregiving. Violence against children is also gendered: in most IMAGES MENA countries, fathers tend to use physical punishment more with their sons than their daughters. When it comes to violence, history has a way of repeating itself. In all four countries, as seen in other parts of the world, men who witnessed their fathers using violence against their mothers, and men who experienced some form of violence at home as children, were significantly more likely to report perpetrating intimate partner violence in their adult relationships. In the MENA study, this was an all too common experience: in the four countries, half to three-quarters of the men reported having experienced physical violence in their homes growing up, and two-thirds or more reported having experienced physical violence by teachers or peers in school. Men’s reported views on domestic violence were mixed, and at times seemingly conflicted. On the one hand, between half and threequarters of male respondents in the four countries categorically rejected the notion that there are times when a woman “deserves to be beaten.” Moreover, two-fifths to four-fifths, depending on the country, were in

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favor of criminalizing domestic violence, including marital rape. At the same time, however, nearly all men across all countries reported expecting their wives to agree to sexual relations on demand. Many men in the study spoke of domestic violence as an “old-fashioned” way of dealing with domestic difficulties and took a particularly dim view of violence against children, except in extreme cases of immoral behavior where physical punishment might be considered warranted. As one male participant in Ramallah put it, “It is unacceptable to resort to violence for solving problems. Violence is a sign of weakness, not strength. He would be very weak if he lays a hand on her or insults her, for it means that he cannot reach her, he cannot communicate” (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 247). A number of participants noted a shift in intimate partner violence from frank physical abuse to subtler forms of psychological and economic abuse, in part as a response to the raft of new legislation in the four countries criminalizing forms of gender-based violence. “Before a man could beat his wife [almost] to death, [still] her parents would not welcome her home, they would oblige her to stay with him. [Now] that’s over, especially with all these new tricks [laws], a man dare not touch his wife. You want him to end his days in prison?” asked one farmer in rural Rabat region (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 137). But a number of Syrian refugee men and women noted that the political, economic, and personal pressures of displacement had resulted in an increase in domestic violence. “When roles changed, women would go to work and men stay home. Men felt helpless. No ego, no dignity. So they became verbally and physically violent with their wives,” remarked one Syrian male refugee in a camp in southern Lebanon, reflecting the views of many displaced men, and women, in the study (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 190). Outside the home, street sexual harassment is another all too common manifestation of gender-based violence, with 30 to 60 percent of men reporting ever having engaged in such acts (mainly sexual comments, stalking/following, or staring/ogling) and between 40 and 60 percent of women having been on the receiving end of such unwanted attentions. When asked why they engaged in such acts, the vast majority of men—up to 90 percent in some countries—said they did it for fun, with two-thirds to three-quarters blaming women for dressing “provocatively”; in three of the study countries, more women than men held a similarly strong line. Younger men, men with more education, and men who experienced violence as children were more likely to engage in street sexual harassment; more educated women and those in urban areas were more likely to report that they had experienced sexual harassment. This unexpected


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finding, that more educated men are more likely to have sexually harassed (with the highest rate found among men with secondary education, in three of the four countries), has been noted by other researchers studying sexual harassment and merits further study. Switching Channels For all the talk of “Arab exceptionalism,” the findings of IMAGES MENA largely follow patterns seen in corresponding studies elsewhere in the world, with one notable distinction: whereas in IMAGES in other parts of the Global South, younger men attest to more open attitudes toward gender equality than their older counterparts, this is not the case in the Middle East and North Africa, where fathers and grandfathers report the same or more gender-equitable views than their heirs. This divergence bears further investigation. Can it be a coincidence that men under thirty-five, the population with the highest rates of unemployment in these countries and, therefore, the greatest challenges in realizing the conventional milestones of manhood, are also the cohort with the greatest resistance to women’s empowerment in public and private life? Such economic arguments may in part account for the fact that, although women share many of the patriarchal values evinced by men, a younger generation of female respondents is more open not only than their older counterparts but also than their male peers. This gap between young men and women does not bode well for the future of gender relations—either in the bedroom or in the boardroom. It is clear from the findings of IMAGES MENA, and other research in the region, that the old models of manhood are increasingly thrown into question. Many men lament what they see as the decline and fall of their domestic authority and their weakened status as financial providers, while some women question whether gender-equitable laws and policies can really make a difference in their daily lives, and if so, whether that difference is necessarily for the better. As one Moroccan man put it, “I have come to understand that ‘masculinity’ is deadly, not just for women. Of course, they remain more put upon than men. Nonetheless, men are also victims of this masculinity, the patriarchal mindset . . . because the norms or the roles assigned to each sex, at the heart of society, are disadvantageous” (El Feki, Barker, and Heilman 2017, 141). While it is fashionable to talk about a “crisis of masculinity,” in reality, men and women in the region are at a crossroads as they try to find their way in a shifting world. For much of the population in the Middle East and North Africa, gender relations, like life in general, are under

Men, Masculinities, and Gender Relations


strain. Extended family arrangements continue to give way to nuclear family structures. Conflict, displacement, high youth unemployment, political uncertainty, and instability all filter into household relations and into men’s identities, attitudes, and practices. Men, in particular, are highly conflicted, holding to a past that no longer fits the present, and frequently uncertain about or unwilling to accept change that might ease their heavy burden of societally imposed patriarchal duty. Public, structural changes in many of the IMAGES MENA countries—some of them quite dramatic—are throwing the gender order into question. However, these changes have not, for the most part, permeated the private, domestic domain or transformed respondents’ attitudes as much as might be expected. Some of these countries have seen dramatic popular upheavals and movements, employment crises, wars, or ongoing occupation—these, among other structural factors, have had undeniable effects on the gender order, particularly on men’s ability to realize their traditionally assumed responsibility to provide for the family’s physical safety and financial security. For women, these dynamics and upheavals have occasionally opened new social spaces and opportunities, both economic and otherwise, but often at a cost to them and to their male counterparts. It is also clear from this and other studies that history counts, and that patterns of thought and behavior are often passed from one generation to the next, to positive and negative effect. IMAGES studies from around the world have found that violence in childhood can lead to violence in adult life and that care creates care, and the MENA study is no different (Levtov et al. 2015). The importance of fatherhood in setting the pattern for a new generation of men lies at the heart of a number of interventions, among them Program P (implemented in more than twenty countries to date) and the MenCare Campaign (now active in forty-five countries), which seek to help men develop their parenting skills as a springboard to encourage them to adopt more gender-equitable practices in their families and communities. Given the enthusiasm with which men embrace fatherhood, as reflected in IMAGES MENA and other research in the region, Promundo is working with Abaad, its Lebanese civil society partner, under the aegis of UN Women, to adapt these programs to the MENA context. Finally, it is important to note that men’s attitudes and actions can change. Although the majority of men who were interviewed in the four countries cling to traditional gendered attitudes and roles on any given issue, one-quarter or more hold more open, more equitable views. The actions of those men who are more progressive in their practices—of those, for example, who are involved in daily childcare—are, more often


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than not, pragmatic choices based on circumstance rather than the product of an ideological stand on men’s and women’s roles and rights. The challenge of masculinities and gender equality lies in ensuring that this new tune does not switch back to the same old song in the decades to come. Notes 1. This chapter focuses on academic studies published in English and French since 2010; there are relatively few formal outlets for peer-reviewed anthropological or sociological research in Arabic. 2. There is a vast body of security-related research on extremist violence that, while mainly focused on men, only occasionally touches on questions of masculinities and gender roles in any significant fashion and is thus beyond the scope of this chapter. 3. In Egypt, the household survey was conducted by Fatma El Zanaty, Rashad Rahman, and colleagues at El Zanaty and Associates; the qualitative research was fielded by Hoda Rashed, Hania Sholkamy and colleagues at the Social Research Center, American University in Cairo, and Amel Fahmy and colleagues at Tadwein Gender Research Center. The household survey in Morocco was led by Mohamed Mghari of the Center for Demographic Studies and Research, Haut-Commissariat au Plan, and Bachir Hamdouch of the International Migration Association; the qualitative research was headed by Rajaa Nadifi, Hassan II University, and Gaëlle Gilot at University of Paris I. In Lebanon, Ziad Mansour, Lina Tarossian, and colleagues at Connecting Research to Development, La Sagesse University, conducted the household survey; the qualitative research was conducted by Ghida Anani, Anthony Keedi, Roula Masri, and colleagues at Abaad. In Palestine, the household survey and qualitative research were led by Eileen Kuttab, Nida Abu Awwad, Lena Meari, and colleagues at the Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University. 4. While maternity leave is mandated in many national constitutions in the region, paternity leave is extremely rare. Lebanon is one of the few countries in the region to have introduced legislation allowing new fathers with up to three paid days off work at the birth of their child.

3 Gender and Religion Amina Zarrugh

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, everyday life experiences of women and men are shaped by relationships between gender and religion, particularly as they are mediated by states and local communities. Experiences throughout the life course, such as career opportunities, marriage, and citizenship rights, are influenced by a complex interplay between gender and religion that varies across history, political systems, and states. In this chapter, I address how gender and religion impact the everyday lives of men and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In particular, I focus on the role of the state in mediating meanings of gender and religion because, in all societies, states and local communities are often key actors in managing, legislating, and enforcing gendered expectations of citizens as well as articulating the specific role of religion in the community. I begin by outlining the meanings of gender and religion specifically with regard to the demography and diversity of the MENA region. This discussion is followed by a review of scholarship on gender and religion in the region, and I conclude by offering examples of indigenous social movements led by women and men that engage ongoing questions about the relationship between gender and religion.

Defining Gender and Religion in the Middle East and North Africa Gender in the Middle East and North Africa

Gender can be defined as a set of social norms and expectations that are taught to and learned by individuals based on their assignment at 31


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birth to the category of male or female. These social expectations constitute a “system” defining gender distinctions and serving as the basis of different rewards and opportunities (Wharton 2011). Gender as a system and set of social expectations changes throughout the life course (the expectations of adolescent and adult males differ), throughout history (the expectations of women at the turn of the twentieth century and in the twenty-first century differ), and throughout cultures (the expectations surrounding marital arrangements among Muslims and Hindus differ). Across the world, fundamental changes to gender have occurred, namely, with regard to women who have been historically disadvantaged by gender systems in most societies. Women in nearly every country are far more likely than in previous decades to have fewer children than their parents and grandparents, to achieve educational attainment beyond primary levels, and to be part of the public labor force at some point during their lives (Inglehart and Norris 2003b). On average at the international level, for instance, women had approximately three fewer children in 2010 compared to the 1960s; 81.5 percent of females over the age of fifteen were literate in 2010 compared to 69.5 percent in 1990 (World Bank 2017); and females over the age of fifteen have consistently composed around 50 percent of the formal labor force in any given year for at least the last twenty years (World Bank 2017). Many of these changes have been spearheaded by women’s and feminist movements in addition to the work of international bodies, such as the United Nations, in compelling states to adopt policies addressing gender inequality. The extent of these changes has not been even across populations throughout the world. Some regions continue to exhibit relatively lower literacy levels, postsecondary educational attainment, and female labor force participation, among other indicators of changing gender norms and expectations. Among the most often cited regions for persistent gender inequality as measured by international indicators is the region of the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), published by the United Nations Development Programme, focused on the question of gender in 2005, highlighting existing areas of gender inequality between men and women and making a case for the sustained engagement and involvement of women in several areas of social life in the region. According to the report, female illiteracy, while still ranking high relative to other regions of the world, has decreased dramatically across Arab states in recent decades, and parity between men and women enrolled in primary and secondary education is increasing. In addition, men and women attend college in similar proportions in twelve

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of the twenty-two Arab countries or territories1 addressed in the report, with the enrollment of women exceeding that of men in Libya and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries (UNDP 2005). However, there do remain persistent disparities in other aspects of social life, including in women’s roles in the public economy, where women’s share is lower than in any other part of the world with just over 30 percent of women engaged in public economic activity in Arab countries in 2005 (UNDP 2005), and in politics, where only approximately 8.1 percent of parliaments in the MENA region were composed of women in 2005 (Paxton, Kunovich, and Hughes 2007). International observers, pundits, and scholars have pointed toward many reasons for these enduring inequalities, including the ongoing effects of colonialism on the region (Charrad 2001), the politics of oil-wealthy states (Ross 2008), and, especially in popular culture, currents of misogyny in the region2 (Eltahawy 2012), among many others (see Charrad 2011). One recurring and common explanation for gender inequality in the Middle East and North Africa is religion and, specifically, views on women and gender within Islam itself (Clark, Ramsbey, and Adler 1991). Very often Islamic law, of which there are several schools of jurisprudence with varying interpretations, is invoked to explain how women are disadvantaged compared to men in matters of matrimony, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. What these religion-based explanations neglect, however, is that there “is no archetypal Middle Eastern Woman” (Moghadam 2003, 10). The MENA region is diverse in terms of political systems, social classes, race and ethnicity, culture, and, importantly, religion and religious practice. In addition, recent studies have not identified Islam as responsible for hindering women’s achievements in areas such as employment (Abdelhadi and England 2017). Thus, while international indicators can be important in offering a broad understanding of the status of gender inequality in regions across the world, the multiple and complex reasons for these inequalities must be illuminated by examining closely the lived experiences of individuals in their communities. An important aspect of local communities specifically is the range of religious experiences, practices, and perspectives among its various members. Religion in the Middle East and North Africa

Different experiences of gender in the Middle East and North Africa can be attributed partly to the diverse religious practices in the region. The most widely practiced religion in the MENA region is Islam, with


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approximately 322 million adherents in 2010 practicing the faith, which constitutes roughly 91.2 percent of all MENA residents (Pew Research Center 2011).3 However, even among those who practice Islam, there are differences in approach, jurisprudence, and everyday lived engagements with Islam. One of the main sources of variation in Islamic practice throughout the wider MENA region is the distinction between individuals who ascribe to Sunni Islam, who constitute the majority of Muslims and accounted for approximately 1.4 billion Muslims in 2010, and those who ascribe to Shia Islam, between 162 and 211 million of the world’s Muslims in 2010 (Pew Research Center 2011). Sunni and Shia Muslims share fundamental Islamic tenets but practice different rituals and hold different perspectives on historical religious leadership lineage, among other contrasting views (Esposito 1998). Although Sunni Muslims constitute the majority, practices differ across four predominant schools of jurisprudence—Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafi‘i4—that prevail in different regions of the world. While Maliki jurisprudence governs the majority of North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, the broader Middle East exhibits a tapestry of Hanafi, Hanbali, and Shafi‘i jurisprudence that influences state law. Each school has different interpretations as it relates to key issues of concern to women and men and their gendered responsibilities as spouses, parents, and citizens. The jurisprudence is derived from the Quran as well as the Sunna, or example of the Prophet Muhammad, as documented and preserved by a number of sources. Only three states in the Middle East and North Africa have majority-Shia populations: Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain (Pew Research Center 2011). There are two predominant schools of Shia Islamic jurisprudence, Jafari and Zaydi, as well as some smaller schools of thought. In some states, like Iran, state governance is organized around Shia-based jurisprudence (Jafari) while in other states, like Bahrain, though the majority of the country may identify as Shia, the ruling royal family of al-Khalifa identify as Sunni, and, accordingly, the legal system related to personal status (not commercial, civil, or criminal matters) is divided between Sunni and Shia court systems (Mechantaf 2010). These differences are significant sources of local variation in lived experience among Muslims throughout the region and influence gender in many ways, including in marital selection (especially across Sunni and Shia communities) and citizenship rights. Outside the context of Sunni and Shia religious identity, there is also the practice of Gnostic approaches, 5 such as Sufism in Sunnipredominant regions. This range of practices and religious identities

Gender and Religion


attests to the diversity of Islamic belief in the Middle East and North Africa, which is further enriched and influenced by the presence of several minority religious and ethnic groups in the region. One of the largest ethnic minority groups in the Middle East, a large proportion of whom identify as Sunni Muslim, is the Kurdish community, who reside across Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. In addition, as the cradle of Christianity’s development, Christians have been part of the landscape of the Middle East and North Africa since the religion’s inception, and a wide range of Christian practices still characterize the region. Among the most sizable Christian minority groups in the MENA region are Coptic Christians, who constitute approximately 10 percent of the Egyptian population and have experienced various types of ethnic discrimination by the Egyptian state (Ha 2017; Sedra 1999). Other Christian minorities in the region include Maronite, Greek Orthodox, and Greek Catholic Christians in Lebanon and more than eleven Christian denominations in Syria.6 In Lebanon, Christians share political representation with Muslims and other minorities (such as Druze and Armenian communities) across positions in the government (Grafton 2003; Rabo 2012). Smaller Christian minorities are also present across the Middle East and North Africa, notably in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and contemporary Israel and the Palestinian territories (Fargues 1998). Alongside sizable Christian populations in the region, Jewish minorities have been present across the Middle East and North Africa for centuries. Upon the declaration of Israel as a sovereign state in 1948, millions of Jewish men, women, and children from around the Middle East and North Africa as well as Europe migrated to the new state. Many other Jewish communities remained in well-established cities and some smaller towns throughout the Middle East, including in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and across North Africa from Morocco to Egypt. Many of these communities, however, forcibly migrated to Israel in response to threats following the 1967 war between Israel and bordering states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria (Simon, Laskier, and Reguer 2003). In the section that follows, I will address how several aspects of life in the region are influenced by complex relationships between gender and religion. I focus in particular on the role of states in mediating meanings of gender and religion primarily in the contemporary7 Middle East and North Africa. I address the politics of Islam and gender in greater detail as many of the key debates and social movements operating in the region have focused on the place of Islam in guiding state policy and in civil society.


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Gender and Religion in Everyday Life To understand the complex relationships between gender and religion, the state is an important point of departure. Contemporary states throughout the world play a key role in defining gendered roles and responsibilities (MacKinnon 1991) as well as articulating the role of religion in public and political life. In the Middle East and North Africa, an important source of legislation at the intersection of gender and religion is the area of family law, which governs questions of inheritance, citizenship, kinship relations, marriage, divorce, and child custody, among other important matters. Family law throughout the world “contains within itself a conception of gender,” and in the Middle East and North Africa it is often referred to as “personal status” law (Charrad 2001, 28). Personal status laws govern questions concerning individual, marital, and familial relations and, in some cases, religious minority rights and obligations to the state (Hatem 2000). Variations in family law across the Middle East and North Africa are influenced by several factors, including colonial history as well as contemporary political structures, of which there are several in the region. Politics

The MENA region features a range of political systems, including democratic, authoritarian, and monarchical structures. Some of these states also exhibit a combination of political systems, such as Kuwait, which has a constitutional monarchy but also operates as a semidemocracy. The gender politics and the place of religion in the state differ across these political system types and historically. In nineteen of the twenty-two state constitutions documented in the region, Islam is specified as the official religion of the state. Generally appearing in the first or second article of the constitution, Islam and, in some cases Islamic law, is declared to be the official religion of the state and the source of its laws and governance. For example, even in the diverse religious community of Egypt, Chapter 1, Article 2 of the most recent 2014 version of the constitution reads, “Islam is the religion of the State and Arabic is its official language. The principles of Islamic Sharia are the principle source of legislation” (Constitute Project 2017a). Only Lebanon, Sudan, and Yemen do not specifically identify an official religion of the state in their most recent constitutions, and all of the constitutions in the region state that there exists equality for all religions before the law and prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion. Although most states do identify Islam as the official religion

Gender and Religion


of the state, the role and meaning of religion in the state differ across the range of political systems in the region and, therefore, have different implications for issues related to gender. In several monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa, the monarch is identified as not only the embodiment of national sovereignty but also the protector of the state’s official religion. For instance, an article in the Bahraini constitution denotes the special place of the king in the country: “The King is Head of State, and its nominal representative, and his person is inviolate. He is the loyal protector of the religion and the homeland and the symbol of national unity” (Constitute Project 2017b; emphasis added). In states like Morocco and Jordan, this role as “protector” of the faithful takes on special import because both King Muhammad VI of Morocco and King Abdullah II of Jordan claim direct familial lineage and descent from the Prophet Muhammad. Any perceived rejection of the monarch can be interpreted as a rejection of the religion, and any perceived rejection of the religion can be regarded as a rejection of the monarch and the state. This relationship has important implications for gender; insofar as legislation concerning gendered rights and responsibilities follows from the state, any attempts to debate or critique this legislation risks transgressing the monarchy and its responsibility to protect religion. Salime (2011) has highlighted this point in the context of Morocco, where the king is also deemed the “Commander of the Faithful.” In debating reforms to family law, to be addressed in the following section, a key challenge in Morocco was the protected status of religion by virtue of the monarchy: “The legitimacy of the king rests definitively on his ability to represent the religious sphere as the source of his authority. The mudawwana [Morocco’s family law] is central to this legitimization. It is the only state law that claims adherence to sharia, and therefore falls directly under the authority of the Commander of the Faithful” (Salime 2011, 3). Accordingly, debates about gender, particularly as it is embodied within family law, can face distinct challenges and opportunities in monarchies. The dynamic can be similar in some autocratic or semi-autocratic states in the region. These range from states with military leadership (such as Egypt) to states with supreme religious leaders (such as Iran). In the case of Egypt, there has been historical skepticism about the role of religion in politics. For decades the Muslim Brotherhood, which began in part as a civic, explicitly nonpolitical organization working in underserved areas of Egypt’s interior and later evolved into a formal political party, has been banned from participating in politics and forced underground and into exile overseas (Tadros 2012).


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This concern about the relationship between religion and politics is apparent in Egypt’s most recent constitution, which prohibits activity by political parties “formed on the basis of religion” (Constitute Project 2017a). This stands in sharp contrast to a state like Iran, where the supreme leader is expected to qualify as a beacon of religious vision and political parties can be organized under the rubric of religion. In Chapter 8, Article 109 of Iran’s constitution, essential qualifications for the Leader, a separate position than that of the president, include “justice and piety, as required for the leadership of the Islamic Ummah” (Constitute Project 2017c). In addition, on the question of religionbased political parties and other organizations, such as societies and professional associations, Chapter 3, Article 26 states that they are permitted insofar as “they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic Republic” (Constitute Project 2017c). Accordingly, advocates for nonIslamic or secular social change could meet with imprisonment or forced exile as happened with some members of the National Front of Iran, an opposition organization that boasts a large share of secular activists (Najmabadi 1991). Though these autocratic states exhibit divergent approaches to religion, they share a similarity in that their autocratic political infrastructure draws boundaries around the place of religion in the state that are sharply sanctioned when transgressed, as has been observed in the case of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the National Front of Iran. In democracies of the Middle East and North Africa, the place of religion and the possibility of fundamental reform to gender politics can take on different dynamics. An expectation of democracies in the region is that robust debates on matters of policy, including issues of gender and religion, should be protected forms of speech. However, many democracies in the region still specify a religion of the state and, depending on its respective history, can encourage or police religious expression despite democratic ideals. For instance, Turkey’s acclaimed nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal, often referred to as Ataturk, meaning “Father of the Turks,” embarked on fundamental changes to Turkish culture as early as the 1920s. These changes included efforts of “modernization” such as transforming the Turkish alphabet from Arabic to Latin script, introducing European penal codes to replace Islamic courts, and embarking on fundamental reform to gender policies, including dress for men and women (White 2003). As part of this legacy, women in Turkey have not been permitted to wear a head veil in certain state facilities, such as universities and parliament buildings (White 2003). Thus, despite its democratic overtures, the historical state-

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led marginalization of Islam in political life has impacted the lives of men and women who do want to embody a particular religious identity through dress and other comportment. Across all political systems, including monarchies, autocracies, and democracies, one of the enduring sites of the complex relations between gender and religion rests in the realm of family law. Considerable variation exists in the region as concerns the history of family law and the ongoing reforms that are reconfiguring women’s rights as well as gendered obligations more generally. Family Law

In addition to the range of political systems in the region, several countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa were colonized for the better part of a century, which left long-lasting impacts, particularly in French-colonized North Africa. This impact extended in important ways to the postcolonial legal infrastructure, including in the area of family law (Charrad 2001). Through a complex interplay of colonial influence and the decisions of postindependence political elites, the contours of family law in the region were defined in contrasting ways across states, ultimately affecting men and women differently. Family law remains a focus of sustained attention for scholars studying the relationships between gender and religion particularly because family law informs several aspects of everyday life. Laws regarding the family continue to be a site of gender inequality in part due to varying interpretations of Islamic law. Schools of Islamic jurisprudence articulate differently relations and rights between men and women, and states have adapted and reformed jurisprudence over the course of several decades. Accordingly, across the region we observe family law codes and policies that range from strongly genderegalitarian family codes, as is the case in Tunisia, to those that are gendered in favor of men as guardians of women, as in the case of states like Saudi Arabia. The extent to which family law grants to men and women equal rights has also historically been influenced by the role of families and kin groups in the state, particularly in the context of North Africa. As Charrad (2001, 31) states, aspects of Islamic law “permit the control of women by their male relatives” in order to “preserve the cohesiveness of patrilineages.” In states where kin groups exerted influence on political elites, we observe less gender-egalitarian family laws as kin groups seek to preserve key aspects of their power as it relates to regulating marriage for reasons of political alliances, among others (Charrad 2001).


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Across the region, scholars have observed very different outcomes in family law promulgation and reform. In terms of marriage, all countries legally acknowledge the right of women to choose their marital partners as this is fundamental and explicitly stated in the Quran. States do differ, however, on the question of the extent to which guardians can mediate marital arrangements as well as the age requirements for marriage. Across the region, there are expectations that male guardians (such as a father or uncle) arbitrate matrimonial affairs on behalf of women and, in a few cases, on behalf of men as well. Referred to as “matrimonial guardians,” male guardians are permitted to speak on behalf of women in the negotiation of the marriage contract, and, in some schools of jurisprudence, it is only the guardian’s consent that makes the marriage legally binding. In this system of matrimonial guardianship, women are effectively not permitted to contract their own marriages. Another important aspect of family law concerns the legal age of marriage, which has historically been different for men and women. Across the region, the legal age of marriage for women has been approximately fifteen years old, though significant revisions have been proposed across North Africa (Moghadam 2003). For instance, in Libya, reforms to marital ages in 1984 were increased for both men and women to twenty years old (Barger 2002). In Jordan, the laws are more specific in nature, requiring that a woman be at least eighteen years of age if she is to marry a man over the age of twenty (Moghadam 2003). Legal age of marriage is significant because it is closely connected to questions of informed and free consent. The range of legal marriage ages across the region and the reforms to marriage age illustrate the dynamism of Islamic law as well as the influence of reform movements in several states. In addition to the negotiation of marriage, its dissolution has been a key focus of family law in the region. Questions center on circumstances of divorce and who is permitted to introduce divorce proceedings, with a range of possibilities from a mutual negotiation between the spouses to a judicial intervention (Charrad 2001). One of the most controversial aspects of divorce in the Middle East and North Africa has concerned the unilateral right of men to divorce women. In Maliki law, which governs much of North Africa, the right to what has been called “unilateral repudiation” is exercised by a man by simply uttering the words “I repudiate thee,” which ends a marriage without any further legal intervention (Charrad 2001). Some states, such as Tunisia and Turkey, have outlawed the right to unilateral repudiation while in others, like Iran, Morocco, and Syria, the right has been strictly limited

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by requiring involvement from the courts or judicial oversight (Charrad 2001; Chisti 2012; Magnarella 1973). Debate concerning the right of unilateral repudiation has prevailed for several decades in Egypt, where members of the Egyptian Feminist Union (EFU) in the 1920s demanded reforms to personal status law and cited Islamic legal opinions that disputed unequivocal male power to divorce women (Kholoussy 2010). Given that this right is gendered and extends only to men, it leaves open the possibility of economic and social vulnerability for women. At the same time, however, many women may find that repudiation offers them important access to divorce that allows them to maintain financial security in the form of mahr, which is an exchange of money or other valuables at the time of marriage from the groom and/or his family directly to the bride as required in most schools of Islamic law. The mahr must be surrendered, in some cases, if a woman initiates a divorce (Kholoussy 2010). Among the central issues related to divorce that are squarely at the intersection of gender and religion are alimony and child custody. Men tend to be the privileged custodians of children following the dissolution of a marriage, which contrasts from how custody operates in family laws across other regions of the world. Men’s custodial rights, however, are often limited by the age of the children—women are frequently awarded custodial rights for younger children—and in countries where multiple religions or denominations are practiced. For instance, in the religiously diverse context of Syria, where a significant minority of citizens are Christian, a Catholic law in 2006 departs from Islamic jurisprudence–based laws in the country by regarding mothers and fathers as equal in matters of child custody. In cases of intermarriage, however, Syrian law only recognizes the religious affiliation of the father, which extends to the children as well (Rabo 2012). The issue of child custody in cases of intermarriage between Muslim fathers and non-Muslim mothers has also affected several other states, including Tunisia, where the law does not formally and explicitly discriminate against intermarried couples if the father is Muslim but nevertheless privileges Muslim parents in child custody decisions (Voorhoeve 2012). Reforms to child custody policies have been taking place across the region, including in Egypt, where a mother who has not remarried is entitled to children until age fifteen, at which time children can choose the parent with whom they would like to live (Hasso 2011). One of the most intractable issues of family law has been gender inequity in inheritance. While Islamic societies were among the first from a global and historical perspective to grant women inheritance rights and the autonomous right to own property without male guardianship,


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the Quran specifically states that women are to receive half the shares of men in matters of inheritance (Ahmed 1992). The precise language of this prescription has presented challenges to individuals seeking to reform this aspect of family law. It is important to note, however, that the legal guarantee of women’s inheritance has been effective in further establishing women’s personal autonomy in the family. An important aspect of family law that has direct implications for political engagement and empowerment in the region concerns the gendered aspects of citizenship law. Across the world, citizenship has been the site of contestation and debate, with much of the world recognizing jus sanguinis, or right of blood citizenship. This form of citizenship requires that an individual have a blood relative (mother or father) who is a citizen of a given country in order to receive citizenship him- or herself. This contrasts sharply with jus soli citizenship, meaning right of soil or birthright citizenship, which confers citizenship to anyone who is born in a given country. Right of blood citizenship in the Middle East and North Africa is also influenced by religion. Prevailing, though contested, interpretations of the Quran maintain that it is only men who are permitted to marry non-Muslim women while women are only religiously permitted to marry Muslim men. The implications of this injunction are that several states across the Middle East and North Africa have limited women’s abilities to confer citizenship to their children when they marry non-Muslims. For instance, in Qatar, women are not permitted to confer nationality to their children even if not doing so would result in statelessness for the child, as could occur in situations in which a father is absent, unknown, or is not legally recognized. Reforms to change the gendered nature of citizenship have occurred in several countries across the region in recent years, including in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen (UNHCR 2014). Importantly, limits on women’s ability to confer citizenship to children or spouses extend also to non-Muslim states; in 2014, approximately twenty-seven countries in the world had policies that limited women’s rights to pass on their citizenship (Theodorou 2014). Across the region, scholars have observed very different outcomes in family law with varying implications for women and men in matters of marriage and divorce, child custody, work and education, and citizenship. An important source of variation in family law and gender rights has been the grassroots activism and engagement of women and men seeking reforms and more gender-egalitarian approaches to citizenship. In the following section, I address some of the intellectual and social movements that have influenced many of the legal and social changes we have observed in the MENA region in the last decade.

Gender and Religion


Intellectual and Social Movements at the Intersection of Gender and Religion Dramatic social and political changes related to the role of religion in the Middle East and North Africa and issues of gender have occurred in the region in recent years. Changes include fundamental reforms of family law, newly drafted state constitutions, and greater involvement of women in institutions of higher education and in politics. The catalyst behind these changes has been a combination of top-down state reforms as well as bottom-up collective action by committed activists and intellectuals who have questioned how religion is engaged by states to govern the lives of men and women. An important contribution to these debates has been made in particular by intellectuals in the region, who have questioned patriarchal interpretations of the Quran and other sources of Islamic jurisprudence. This intellectual movement, referred to broadly as Islamic feminism, has influenced movements for reform as well as elicited critique from social movement actors who embrace a different view on the role of religion in politics. Below I address Islamic feminism, movements for reforms to gendered state policies, and the resurgence of social movements organizing under the rubric of Islam, which have elicited sanction from governments in some states and have influenced debates about relations between men and women across the region. Islamic Feminism

Social movements among feminists and women’s rights advocates in the MENA region date to the period of colonialism, during which many women actively participated in nationalist struggles, which is bestdocumented in Egypt and Algeria (Badran 1996; Slyomovics 2005). However, the intellectual and social movement known as Islamic feminism came to prominence in the 1990s and articulated a new way of engaging in reform of gender-based legislation across not only the Middle East and North Africa but in South Asia and the broader African continent as well. The main contention of intellectuals and activists, such as Fatima Mernissi of Morocco or Nazira Zayn al-Din of Lebanon, who have come to be connected with Islamic feminism, is that genderegalitarian principles and notions of social justice are embedded within Islamic frameworks and the language of the Quran and Sunna (cooke 2000). One of the primary reasons that we observe gender inequality within Muslim societies, according to those who ascribe to Islamic feminism, is that key texts and Islamic jurisprudence have primarily been


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interpreted and developed by male jurists and religious scholars who have offered patriarchal readings of the texts. The possibility of rereading and reinterpreting the foundational texts, therefore, became a primary focus of Islamic feminism. Intellectuals across a range of fields, from sociology to history, embarked on investigating and renarrating Islamic history, contextualizing the Quran and the Sunna, and articulating new visions for gender-based rights and obligations that they regarded as indigenous to Islam. As cooke (n.d.) writes, intellectuals like Amina Wadud-Muhsin, who eventually became the first Muslim woman to formally lead a Muslim congregation in prayer, “focused on the Koran [sic] and in a manner characterized by some as ‘textual fundamentalism,’ deconstructed sections word by word to produce positive meaning out of the most apparently negative passages.” In a similar vein, Barlas (2002) has offered alternative readings of the Quran that place existing patriarchal interpretations into social and historical context, arguing that early interpretations cannot be disconnected from the Quran’s revelation in seventh-century Arabia, where misconceptions about women were commonplace. A rereading offers new insights about Quranic approaches to gender, which Barlas (2002, 27) argues “establishes the principle of ontic equality of the sexes . . . [and] assumes that men and women have similar sexual natures and needs and that its precepts about sexual modesty and morality apply equally to both.” Other scholars, such as Mernissi (1993), Ahmed (1992), and Afsaruddin (2010), have excavated Islamic history to illustrate the important and diverse roles that women have played in Muslim societies since Islam’s inception and, subsequently, how their contributions have been eclipsed in histories of the religion’s development. These interventions of Islamic feminism have had a profound impact on debates about the relationship between gender and religion throughout the world. For activists, the opportunity to articulate expanding women’s rights as an inherent aspect of the Islamic faith and ethos of social justice has been an effective framing strategy. Organizations have emerged, such as Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), that are dedicated to improving women’s understandings of their rights within Muslim-majority states and specifically emphasize the multiple interpretations of the Quran in the development of Islamic jurisprudence across the world. Although the work of Islamic feminism has become an important tool for many social movement actors in the Middle East and North Africa and abroad, it has also faced criticism from those who regard the claims of Islamic feminists as an import of Western values and perspectives (cooke n.d.). Islamic feminists have faced challenges

Gender and Religion


in destigmatizing the term feminism in the region in part because several colonial powers, including Britain and France, justified their interventions in the Middle East and North Africa by citing concerns about the treatment of “native women,” which Ahmed (1992) has called “colonial feminism.” Despite these challenges, scholars maintain that “Islam and feminism are not incompatible” (Mir-Hosseini 1999). As a result, vibrant feminist and women’s movements, many of which draw on aspects of Islamic feminism, have influenced policy and reform in countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Movements to Reform Gendered State Policies

One of the main foci of social movements in the Middle East and North Africa at the intersection of gender and religion has been related to how state policies, including family law, are gendered and affect men and women differently. Social movements have had varying success in proposing reforms to family law policies, with some states promulgating sweeping top-down revisions in the absence of strong social movements and others gridlocked in disagreement. Across the region, one area of fundamental reform has been in marriage policy, specifically concerning limits on polygamy. A minority of states, like Tunisia and Turkey, have outlawed polygamy altogether for decades despite what many regard as a Quran-based permissibility of polygamy for men to have up to four wives (Arat 2001; Charrad 2001). Most states, however, have recently placed clear restrictions on the practice, such as requiring men to seek permission from existing wives before marrying again. In Morocco, secular feminist movements, namely, the Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc and the Union de l’Action Féminine, have pressured the monarchy to reform aspects of family law and have been successful in changing the minimum legal age of marriage from fifteen to eighteen years of age and have expanded the circumstances under which women can initiate divorce and enjoy custodial rights (Salime 2011). In other settings, states like Bahrain have proposed topdown reforms supported by government-affiliated groups, such as the Supreme Council for Women. Among their key reform proposals was a codification of family law in order to reduce judicial discretion in interpreting Islamic jurisprudence and, accordingly, minimize inconsistencies in the implementation of various laws relating to the family (Kinninmont 2011). Though the reform proposal in Bahrain endured a protracted public debate and ultimately codification only applied to Sunni family courts, the ongoing call for reforms across the region illustrates the nature of family law in the Middle East and North Africa as a


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highly politicized site in which the relationship between gender, religion, and state is redefined and renegotiated. Another site of changing relations between gender and religion concerns reforms to state constitutions, particularly within countries that experienced mass protests in 2011 during what has been termed the Arab uprisings or Arab Spring.8 Several states reformed or developed completely new constitutions following the uprisings, and gender became a central question in these documents, including in Tunisia and Egypt. While several states in the region adopted inclusive language of equality in revised constitutions, early drafts of the Tunisian constitution elicited sharp criticism from women and women’s organizations for referring to women as “complementary” to men (Charrad and Zarrugh 2014). The term used in the controversial article, which can be translated in several ways, resulted in consternation among many women who were concerned about the implications of the language for women’s autonomy and citizenship rights (Marks 2012). Other women, several of whom belonged to Ennahda (a political party that promotes a greater role of religion in politics), regarded the language of the article as consistent with what they maintain are Islamic perspectives on different but equally valuable roles and responsibilities for women and men. A protracted public debate followed, and the article was subsequently removed from final drafts of the constitution. In Egypt, the 1971 constitution was immediately suspended by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces following the collapse of the Hosni Mubarak regime in 2011. The first attempt to draft a new constitution in 2012 included no women on the constitution-drafting committee, and efforts were made to reverse some of the interventions in family law made by the former regime, which had increased women’s autonomy in matters of marriage, divorce, and citizenship and further criminalized violence against women. The debate was reinvigorated in 2014 following the military coup that ousted democratically elected Mohamed Morsi. A new fifty-person committee, termed the Committee of Fifty, was formed and included five women. The 2014 constitution that followed from the committee’s work and a referendum is now widely regarded as “the most progressive constitution in Egyptian history with respect to women’s rights” and formally inscribes gender equality within the constitution (Kato 2017, 47). As compelling examples of civil society–based mobilizations in Tunisia and Egypt, the debates around state constitutions illustrate the multiple perspectives on the role of gender in the state. The landscape of activism regarding gender-based policy has also been transformed since 2011, which reintroduced to public political life social move-

Gender and Religion


ments organizing under the rubric of Islam that had been violently suppressed for decades. An important aspect of this new landscape in particular has been women’s increasingly visible support of and involvement in these organizations. Religion-Based Movements and Gender

Movements organizing explicitly under the rubric of Islam and seeking greater influence of Islam in the state have been actors in politics across the Middle East and North Africa for several decades. Such movements have, however, been frequently marginalized politically and, in some contexts, legally prohibited from operating as social movements or political parties. States across North Africa specifically have embarked on violent campaigns to police members and sympathizers of these movements. For instance, in Algeria, the government relentlessly targeted and disappeared over 3,000 people it deemed to be “Islamist terrorists” in addition to “the regime’s ‘older enemies,’ such as journalists, intellectuals and other non-Islamist opponents” (Schwarz 2002, 63). In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya thousands of men were arrested, forcibly disappeared, and/or extrajudicially killed from approximately the 1980s to the present on the suspicion of their engagement in movements organizing under the rubric of Islam. These men were viewed as fostering oppositional political views in their respective autocratic states. The marginalization of such groups represents yet another dimension of the relationship between gender and religion as many men in the region who were perceived as embodying a religious masculinity were vulnerable to state violence regardless of whether they were involved in any illicit social or political organizing. Amar (2013) has connected this policing of masculinity to what he terms “human security states” that increasingly use repressive state violence to enact social reform. Viewed as a threat to prevailing political orders, such movements were not allowed to operate publicly until recently in some states where reforms following the Arab uprisings permitted their reengagement in politics. In other states, members and anyone perceived to be a member continue to be targeted by the state. An important aspect of the reintegration of some religion-based social and political movements into society has been their advocacy on behalf of gender questions as well as their incorporation of women into several aspects of their organizations. Although individual perspectives within such social movements may differ, men and women participating in these organizations tend to appeal to biological arguments concerning what they regard as the roles and responsibilities accorded to men and


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women. As Moghadam (2003, 155) writes of the National Islamic Front in Sudan, “women have internalized the biological paradigm, which holds that men and women are fundamentally different by nature” and, therefore, must assume different responsibilities in social life. Other women argue, in a vein similar to that of Islamic feminism, that they appeal not only to biology but also specifically to religion because Islam affords women rights, and, therefore, it is not necessary to appeal to any other ideology to affirm those gender-based protections. Though these views contrast with many other women’s movements in the region, the “biological” argument articulated by some women in these religion-based movements has led to some important grounds of common interest between women across the political and religious spectrum. For instance, women activists and leaders in organizations operating under the rubric of Islam across the region have called for expanding opportunities for female education and employment. Among the reasons for such political positions is the possibility that women’s integration into previously male-dominated fields, such as medicine, will produce cohorts of female workers who can then service female clients, maintaining what they regard as Islamic prescriptions of modesty by limiting mixed-gender interactions (Moghadam 2003). These proposals for education and employment, which are shared by women in secular and other organizations for differing reasons, are ultimately poised to fundamentally transform women’s autonomy, fertility, marital patterns, and financial security and independence. Accordingly, women’s status in the region is undergoing profound changes whether one disputes the incorporation of religion into matters related to gender-based rights or advocates for greater consideration of religion in these debates. Conclusion The Middle East and North Africa is a diverse region of the world where the relationship between religion and gender differs across states and history. This chapter has primarily focused on the relationship between gender and Islam as mediated by states in the region, but further scholarly focus on the relationship between minority religious communities and gender could illustrate even greater variation in experience than is addressed here. As emphasized in the chapter, the question of women’s status in the region is influenced by legal policies codified in family law, which governs marriage, divorce, inheritance, and ultimately citizenship. Generally derived from particular schools of Islamic jurisprudence, these

Gender and Religion


laws exemplify how the intersection between gender and religion is relevant to men’s and women’s lives across the region. Important and dramatic changes are transforming the MENA region, and scholars have continued to observe changing relationships between gender and religion at the state level and in the everyday experiences of men and women. Social movements as well as top-down state policy, sometimes referred to as state feminism, have led to reforms of existing laws that have resulted in expanded citizenship rights for women and have bolstered women’s autonomy, particularly in negotiating marriage and divorce. Future scholarship should examine closely the range of social movements operating in the region as well as expand focus on the implications of state policy and social movements for both women and men, the latter of whom have increasingly become the focus of state attention and have experienced a circumscription of political and social rights in various ways. A proliferation of social movements in states where reforms or revolutions followed from mass uprisings in 2011 illustrates a complex tapestry of political perspectives on the relationship between gender and religion in society. This changing landscape of politics will likely witness new debates about the role of religion in governing aspects of social life, including gendered roles, rights, and responsibilities in society. Notes

1. The countries or territories considered in Arab Human Development Reports include Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories. 2. There was a strong and critical response to Eltahawy’s (2012) article among both popular media and my colleagues working on Muslim societies and the MENA region. An important critique concerns the representativeness of the examples she chose, which are primarily from a handful of countries (namely, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) to represent an entire region and/or religion. 3. These figures do not include Iran, which was included in the demography of the Asia-Pacific region in the Pew Research Center report. 4. Arabic terms have been transliterated according to the conventions of the International Journal of Middle East Studies. 5. Gnostic approaches focus on developing knowledge of the divine by forging a close, personal, and spiritual relationship with the divine. These approaches are not unique to Islam but extend to Judaism and Christianity as well as across the geography of the Mediterranean and contemporary Middle East. 6. Estimates differ regarding the proportion of Christian Syrians. See Rabo (2012) for discussion estimates varying from 6 to 10 percent. 7. For examples of historical discussions of the complex intersections between gender and religion in the Middle East, see Ahmed (1992), Najmabadi (2005), and Kozma (2011).


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8. Collective uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, also known as the Arab Spring, began in Tunisia on December 17, 2010, when a produce vendor named Mohammad Bouazizi immolated himself in front of the local governor’s office in the region of Sidi Bouzid in response to being routinely harassed by authorities for lacking a permit to sell from his produce cart. He subsequently died in the hospital after being visited by President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and, days later, protests erupted in his hometown and across Tunisia. The protests were followed by planned “Days of Rage” throughout the region and ultimately led to the regime collapses of Egypt and Libya, the protracted conflict in Syria, and reforms in states throughout the region.

4 Marriage and Divorce Nadia Sonneveld

Al-Sayyida Zainab, Cairo, November 2003. Excerpt from fieldnotes: My husband and I are in al-Sayyida Zainab, a popular neighborhood in the old city center of Cairo. Another day of fasting has ended and the people of Cairo are ready for a night of partying. Trees are wrapped in flashing lights, fawanis, the typical Egyptian lanterns, dot the streets, and festivals, music, and colors are everywhere. It is our first time to meet Kalim, an Egyptian man in his late twenties. Despite the festive spirit, Kalim is in a serious mood. His marriage has failed, and although not legally dissolved yet, he is already contemplating remarriage. Staring into the air, he says, “The high costs of marriage bother me greatly. As a man, I am expected to buy an apartment and furnish it, at least partly, and pay my bride a shabka (engagement presents, usually consisting of gold) and mahr (dower). I have a good job, but, really, I can’t possibly pay for all these expenditures.” He looks at us and I can see he has some sort of solution in mind. “Do you know Sheikh al-Zindani?” It is a rhetorical question. “He is from Yemen and just issued a fatwa about a new form of marriage: zawaj frind (boyfriend marriage). It allows young men and women to marry each other while they can still remain living with their parents until they are financially able to buy or rent a flat and establish real marital life. Husbands also do not need to provide maintenance until they have found a steady job.” Kalim strongly believes that although the official purpose of the fatwa is to prevent young Muslims in the West from engaging in illicit sexual relationships, the fatwa’s more hidden aim is to change marriage traditions in the Middle East and North Africa. “In Egypt, the family of the bride puts high pressure on the groom, especially in the villages. In my village, people expect the groom to buy a house and furnish it completely. Really, I don’t understand why a wife should have fifty cups and plates with only two people living in the house!” He changes his tone. “But, now, with the support of this well-known sheikh, grooms can tell the bride and her family that they better lower their demands or else the bride will remain living with her parents.”



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While the Ramadan music carries away Kalim’s laugh of pleasure, I cannot help but think of the story I have heard over and over again during the past few months. That the number of Egyptian women greatly exceeds the number of Egyptian men. While this is not true—I checked the statistics1—it is clear that the idea instills fear in the hearts and minds of many women and their families, fear that women of marriageable age will stay behind as spinsters. In addition, I heard so many stories of women and their families making significant contributions to covering the costs of the wedding party and those of establishing marital life. Although I feel Kalim’s concerns are honest, I also do not doubt those of the women I met. Two contrasting realities. What to make of them?

The Gain from Marriage

In his seminal theory of marriage, economist Gary Becker argued that people all over the world marry when they expect there will be a positive gain from their union relative to their remaining single. Becker strongly emphasized that this gain is not limited to material gains only but includes other, often more important gains, such as companionship, quantity and quality of children, prestige, and health (1974, 301, 311; 1993, 385). Despite Becker’s insistence on the role of nonmaterial gains in marriage, his analysis still focuses on economic factors: when fertility is high and divorce and labor force participation of married women uncommon, the gain from an extensive sexual division of labor (men as breadwinners and women as housewives) is high. However, when fertility rates drop and divorce and the labor force participation of married women become more common, the gain from marriage decreases.2 Both the reduced gain from marriage and the higher divorce rates have resulted in a rising number of unmarried couples’ living together and an increase in female-headed households, at least in the United States (1981, 353–355). When we apply Becker’s findings to Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) societies, we notice that there has indeed been a sharp decline in fertility rates across the region (Rashad 2000; Roudi-Fahimi and Mederios Kent 2007, 7–11) and an increase in the opportunities for married women to divorce (Sonneveld 2012a). While the formal labor force participation of women in the MENA region is low compared to other regions, within the region the rate has increased in many countries over the past three decades, albeit slowly (Solati 2017). We also see that novel relationships between men and women, such as the frind marriages introduced above, have come into existence. Zawaj frind, zawaj misyar, and zawaj ‘urfi all carry the noun zawaj, which means “marriage” in Arabic.3 Throughout the region, however, there is a widespread feeling that these alternative marriages are hidden

Marriage and Divorce


forms of cohabitation, or even prostitution (Hasso 2011; Sonneveld 2012b), an issue to which I return in more detail below.4 While we still know little about the impact of the uprisings of 2010 and 2011 on marriage and divorce patterns in practice, some significant changes have taken place on a legal level. First, in Tunisia, the government introduced in 2017 legislation that allows Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, a move unprecedented in the MENA region. Second, female-headed households form a significant part of the total number of households in some Middle Eastern societies, such as Egypt (Bibars 2001; Sonneveld 2012a), Morocco (De Haas and Van Rooij 2010), and Yemen (Moghadam 2003, 123).5 In 2013, the former Morsi government, for the first time in Egyptian history, gave constitutional recognition to households where women are the main breadwinners (Article 10), a change that was retained in the constitution issued in 2014 under Egypt’s present leader al-Sisi. Despite the profound societal changes outlined above, marriage remains as important as ever in the Middle East and North Africa. Kalim’s marriage, for example, was not legally dissolved, and yet he was already considering remarriage. As a foreign researcher working in Egypt and Morocco, the first question people ask me is inevitably, are you married, and, depending on the answer, do you have children? Moreover, during my stay in Egypt in 2004–2005, there were frequent debates in newspapers and on television about the great dangers of socalled secret and ‘urfi marriages in the country. These heated public debates signify the great importance the general public attaches to conventional marriages with extravagant wedding parties and the establishment of a patriarchal male breadwinner–female homemaker family model, be it extended or nuclear. The observations mentioned above raise the question of how we can reconcile Becker’s perspective on the reduced gain from marriage—due to declining fertility rates and increased opportunities for divorce and labor force participation of women—with a reality in which marriage in most, if not all, Middle Eastern societies is still highly important, even when young people, such as Kalim and the women I spoke to, feel they and their families have to make tremendous financial sacrifices to make it possible in the first place. The answer to this question is partly given by Becker when he argues that people try to maximize the gain from marriage as they conceive it (1993, 386). It is probably fair to say that in many Middle Eastern societies, gender identities and marital identities are mutually constitutive with manhood being defined in terms of a breadwinning father and womanhood in terms of a homemaking and obedient mother.


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Marriage, then, is a rite of passage into adulthood. Involving a significant change of status in a community or society, it must be witnessed and celebrated collectively, even when religious or legal notions profess a more individualistic approach to marriage (see below). After all, acquiring a masculine or feminine identity is not simply an individual endeavor but deeply connected to the recognition granted by others (Ghannam 2013, 3). To substantiate my argument, I analyze in the next three sections social, religious, and legal understandings of marriage and divorce, with a particular focus on Egypt and Morocco, where I conducted most of my fieldwork, and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon. Pointing out differences and similarities between and within these discourses, I demonstrate that structural functional theories about marriage (e.g., Parsons and Bales 1956) and anticipatory socialization, where people learn about the nature of the roles they will acquire in the future, need to be complemented by symbolic interaction and conflict theories, which relate people’s understanding of a situation to their actual behavior once confronted with that situation. After all, “embeddedness still encompasses agency,” as Joseph’s work on intimate selving in Arab families shows (Joseph 1999b, 2, 11). Connected with patriarchy—the privileging of males and seniors and the mobilization of kinship structures, morality, and idioms to legitimate and institutionalize gendered and aged domination (Joseph 1999b, 12)—embedded agency leads to what Joseph calls “patriarchal connectivity” (1999b, 11). I use the notion of patriarchal connectivity to demonstrate why the gain of marriage has not reduced in Middle Eastern societies, despite women’s increased opportunities for divorce and labor force participation, and the reduction in fertility rates. Divorce, Education, and Labor Force Participation of Women In Becker’s theory of marriage, the gain of marriage is reduced by three key developments: women’s increased access to divorce, a decline in fertility rates, and women’s increased labor force participation. I will elaborate on each one of them below. Divorce

Throughout the MENA region, divorce for Muslim women has been difficult, at least from a legal point of view. Until two decades ago, Muslim women could generally divorce in two ways: on the basis of legally stip-

Marriage and Divorce


ulated grounds (talaq al-tatliq) or by agreement. With the exceptions of Turkey and Tunisia, they could not file for unilateral no-fault divorce.6 Before codification, women usually had very few options to divorce in countries where the Hanafi school of law prevailed.7 This was different in countries where the Maliki school of law dominated and where women could also divorce on the basis of grounds, such as darar (harm) and nonmaintenance by the husband. Despite these legal limitations for divorce, Ottoman court studies show that in everyday practice women divorced frequently, with the help of qadis (judges) who interpreted the teachings of the four Sunni schools of law in a flexible way, among others by accepting local ‘urf (custom) as a source for how to understand the teachings of the four schools of law in a specific local context (Vikør 2005, 167). When codification set in, usually after independence from colonial domination had been achieved, a selection of teachings dealing with personal status law issues from within the dominant school of law became the basis for religion-based personal status laws in countries such as Egypt (1920s), Lebanon (1917, 1962), Morocco (1957–1958), Tunisia (1956), Syria (1953), the United Arab Emirates (2005), and Qatar (2006). These laws were supplemented by teachings “borrowed” from other schools (this process is called takhayyur), in order to expand women’s legally stipulated grounds for fault-based divorce, for example. In Tunisia, former president Bourguiba (r. 1956–1987) went one step further by surpassing the teachings of the four schools of law altogether; instead he used ijtihad (independent reasoning of the sources of Islamic sharia) to abolish polygamy and make unilateral nofault divorce available to men and women alike. Turkey was an exception in that it adopted in 1926 the secular Swiss civil code, including its law on personal status. Divorce by agreement consisted, and still consists, of two forms: delegated repudiation, in which the husband delegates the right of repudiation to the wife, and divorce by mutual consent through khul‘.8 This understanding of khul‘ as a consensual divorce changed in 1967 when the Supreme Court of Pakistan endorsed a new understanding of khul‘ as a unilateral no-fault divorce at the demand of the wife (Khurshid Bibi v. Muhammad Amin, PLD 1967 SC 97). A similar reform (talaq ‘ala l-fidya) was enacted in Sudan in 1977, but the experiment was short-lived and was largely replaced by a form of consensual khul‘ (talaq ‘ala mal) after the 1983 Islamization of Sudanese state law (Fluehr-Lobban 2012, 235–241). The introduction of khul‘ as a unilateral divorce gained momentum at the start of the new millennium. In January 2000, the Egyptian


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parliament approved a draft law that contained an article on khul‘ (Article 20 of Personal Status Law no. 1/2000). It gave women the possibility to divorce without the consent of the husband and without the need to show cause in court. 9 Other Arab states followed the Egyptian example by introducing similar laws, most closely in Jordan in 2001 (Welchman 2007, 116) and, to different degrees, in Algeria (2005), Palestine (2005), Qatar (2006), and the United Arab Emirates (2005) (Welchman 2007, 119). In return for a unilateral no-fault divorce, a woman in a khul‘ procedure is required to compensate her husband. In Egypt, she has to return the prompt dower to her husband and relinquish her rights to the deferred part of the dower, which she would be entitled to in the case of a fault-based divorce: the ‘idda (financial support for a period of three menstrual cycles) and mut‘a (financial compensation of at least two years if the wife is not to blame for the divorce). In 2004, Morocco went one step further when the parliament approved a provision that allowed men and women to divorce through a procedure called shiqaq. In Morocco, shiqaq refers to a divorce based on irreconcilable differences. If court-appointed arbitrators are unable to reconcile the spouses, the court will grant the divorce (Articles 94–97, Family Law 2004). Spouses do not need to show cause in court, and, in contrast to Egypt, a woman does not need to return the prompt dower or relinquish her rights to the deferred part of the dower and the ‘idda maintenance. While in the 2000s Egypt and Morocco were front-runners in granting women access to unilateral no-fault divorce, the introduction of khul‘ in Egypt provoked much public controversy (Sonneveld 2012a, chaps. 2–3). Where a century earlier men were held responsible for the high divorce rates (e.g., Cuno 2008; Kholoussy 2010, 79–85), now women were accused of causing divorce rates to skyrocket (Sonneveld 2012a). Various studies, however, have pointed out that when there is an imbalance in men’s and women’s access to divorce, divorce rates tend to increase.10 But when men and women have equal access to divorce, divorce rates are more likely to decrease. While this has not been researched for Middle Eastern societies in much detail, there is preliminary evidence that gender equality with regard to divorce has reduced the divorce rate in Morocco (El Fethouni 2013)11 and Egypt,12 as it gives husbands and wives a tool to negotiate the terms of marriage (dissolution). In contrast to what Becker predicted—women’s access to divorce reduces the gain from marriage—there are reasons to believe that in some Middle Eastern societies gender equality in divorce provides women with leverage to gain more equal status within marriage (Sonneveld 2012a). Here access to divorce increases the gain from marriage.

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Education, Labor Force Participation, and Fertility Rates

Divorce rates do not tell us much about the nature of the marital relationship and whether practices and understandings of marriage change over time. Codification and legislation have played, and continue to play, an important role in changing existing legal understandings of marriage, as we will see in the next section. Here, I want to point out the effect of education on timing of marriage and marriage relationship patterns. A century ago, marriage was nearly universal in the Middle East and North Africa. In the 1990s, the proportion of women who delay marriage or who never marry had increased rapidly (Rashad and Osman 2003, 23). Moghadam (2003, 153) believes that prolonged education is the main factor underlying the significant rise in the marriage age,13 a finding corroborated for Morocco by Žvan Elliott (2015). At the turn of the twentieth century, Egyptian judge and nationalist Qasim Amin became famous for demanding the “liberation of women,” which, so he believed, depended to a great extent on making education widely available to women. Women needed to be educated in order to be more compatible partners to their educated husbands.14 Education would bring more stability in Egyptian marriages, which were characterized by high divorce rates (Cuno 2008). In Amin’s view, the main purpose of educating women was not to prepare them for a job, although he had no principal objection to the participation of women in the labor force. In the century that followed, women in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa made remarkable gains in education. Where in the 1980s more than half of the women in Algeria (64.9 percent), Egypt (70.5 percent), Iran (63.7), and Tunisia (52.7 percent) were illiterate, these percentages had fallen to 51, 61.2, 34.2, and 45.4 percent in 1995, respectively (Tzannatos and Kaur 2003, 57).15 This trend has continued, and in the early 2010s, more girls than boys in the MENA region were enrolled in tertiary education (World Bank 2013, 7). Nevertheless, in the 1990s, adult female illiteracy remained high and also has a clearly gendered dimension as the rate among women was usually twice as high as among men (Tzannatos and Kaur 2003, 55). Despite rising literacy rates across the region, rates of women’s participation in the formal labor force remain among the lowest in the world, although they are increasing faster than in any other region, with agriculture still being the largest employer of women (Tzannatos and Kaur 2003, 61–64). It is generally believed that women’s education and also their labor force participation have resulted in a higher age of first marriage throughout the Middle East (e.g., Moghadam 2003, 139).16 In


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North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia), Kuwait, Sudan, and Yemen, delayed marriage was the dominant factor in the fertility decline (Rashad 2000, 92–93), which was rapid from the 1980s onward. Rashad studies the implications of the increasing rates of women who delay marriage and women who never marry in societies where marriage is the only way of legitimizing sexual relationships. As noted, across the Middle East and North Africa, marriage signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood and is the most important way to gain social status (Arabi 2001, 159; Rashad and Osman 2003, 22; Sonneveld 2012a; Žvan Elliott 2015). Through marriage, men become husbands and fathers and women mothers and housewives. In a study on women and education in rural Morocco, Žvan Elliott (2015) argues that rural Moroccan women’s increased participation in higher education has not resulted in increased opportunities to find a professional job and, worse even, has pushed them out of the marriage market. This has serious consequences in a community where an unmarried woman, irrespective of her age, is called bint (girl), and where her married counterpart is considered a woman, even if she is still a legal minor (i.e., under the age of eighteen). While the unmarried, educated women in Žvan Elliott’s study faced the daily stigmatization of being single, other men and women develop different strategies to deal with their unmarried status, as caused by prolonged education or other factors, such as divorce, financial hardship, and, in the case of Kalim’s landlady, fertility problems. Social Understandings of Marriage and Divorce Al-Sayyida Zaynab, Cairo, November 2003. Excerpt from fieldnotes: It is early in the morning, but my husband and I are still enjoying the company of Kalim and his friend Mahir, who joined us later. For their part, Kalim and Mahir are enjoying the pleasures of eating and drinking in the few hours that separate them from another day of fasting. It is clear Mahir loves his fiancée dearly. She is not present, but every time Mahir hears the lute player play a nice song, he spends much of his mobile phone credit to have her listen to the music that so much arouses his heart. Despite the love he feels for his fiancée, marriage fills Mahir’s mind with a worry that he will be unable to meet the financial demands of her family, his university education notwithstanding. As if to fill their minds with an antidote to their worries, Kalim tells us that there are other reasons why people have difficulties getting married. “My landlady,” he says, “married twice and in both cases her husbands repudiated her because she could not conceive. She had almost given up hope to ever marry again when she met her current husband. He was already married with children and did not want to establish a new family, so when she told him she could not have children, he was happy to marry her. But then the unexpected happened and she got pregnant. The baby was born premature and died

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shortly after birth, but, still, the husband was so upset by her unexpected pregnancy that he divorced her immediately. She, my landlady, told me about it just a few days ago. But the very next day, she told me that they had married again. She says she needs a man in her life, and he agreed to take her back. I don’t know why she is sharing so much details of her personal life with me. Maybe because I am her age.”

Alternative Marriage

Marriages (and divorces) like the one presented above are not uncommon in Middle Eastern societies, such as Egypt (Sonneveld 2012b), Lebanon (explained in more detail later), Morocco (Perkin 2013), Saudi Arabia (Arabi 2001), Syria (Carlisle 2008), the United Arab Emirates (Hasso 2011), and Yemen (Dahlgren 2012). In the case presented above, the marriage was between a woman and a married man. In other cases, however, both spouses engage in a first marriage. I call these marriages alternative because they deviate from conventional social understandings of “proper” marriage. This does not mean that they are necessarily informal, that is to say, lack registration with the state authorities. Sometimes an alternative marriage of the type Kalim’s landlady was involved in obtains social sanction when the families of both spouses consent to the relationship and make it public, even register it. Usually, however, the first wife and the family of the husband are unaware of the second relationship. As I have argued earlier (Sonneveld 2012b), this secrecy does not always work the other way around: to the second wife the relationship is an important way to show to the outside world that she is married (and it may explain why the landlady shared the news of her new marriage with Kalim). There are different reasons why men and women enter into unions that are highly controversial in society and sometimes not recognized by the law. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women’s entrance to institutions of higher education and their subsequent entrance in the labor market have pushed them out of the marriage market (Arabi 2001). The acceptable age of marriage for women is in their late teens; when a woman finishes her education, she is in her mid-twenties and faced with two options: stay behind as a spinster or enter a union that has spread in Saudi society since the 1980s: zawaj misyar. Divorced women face the same choice in a society where bachelors only want to marry virgins, and the same applies to men who cannot meet the high financial demands of conventional marriage (Arabi 2001).17 In misyar marriage, the future couple agrees in a contract signed under the supervision of a marriage broker that the wife will remain living at her parents’ house, her husband will see her on a visitor’s basis,


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and she will exempt her husband from paying her maintenance (nafaqa). Frequently, she also agrees to become a second wife. The marriage is semi-secret as the husband usually keeps the second marriage concealed from his first wife, an issue that raised much public controversy in Saudi Arabian society after a Saudi citizen submitted a question about zawaj misyar to the country’s grand mufti, Ibn Baz (r. 1993–1996), which led to the proclamation of the mufti’s landmark fatwa on misyar marriage (Arabi 2001), as we will see later. The differences between misyar and the frind marriages Kalim talked about are little. While zawaj misyar is often equated with polygamous marriage of the husband, this is not a necessary characteristic of this alternative form of marriage as Saudi men who are still single and who do not have the financial means to pay for the high costs of marriage also conclude misyar marriages (Arabi 2001). The nonprovision of housing and maintenance and the relatively low dower payment—onetenth of the amount for a “normal” middle-class marriage (Arabi 2001, 155)—are central features of zawaj misyar as much as they are of zawaj frind. These features are in direct opposition to conventional understandings of marriage on a social level. This is clearly exemplified by Kalim, who was receptive to the idea of zawaj frind not because he wanted to marry in this manner but because he wanted to use the idea of zawaj frind as a way to change financial habits pertaining to conventional Egyptian Muslim marriage, such as the excessive payments for an apartment, the shabka, and, to a lesser extent, the dower. Kalim believed that the husband should be the main provider in marriage, but this did not mean that high shabkas or home ownership were the essence of Muslim marriage. “After all,” he told us seriously, “when a poor man approached the Prophet asking him whether he could marry, the Prophet asked him, ‘Do you have a garment?’ He said he had not. ‘What do you know by heart of the Quran?’ The poor man answered that he knew such and such parts. Then the Prophet told him that he could marry.” In Kalim’s view this hadith shows that there is a clear religious basis to reject current customs surrounding Egyptian Muslim marriage. Generally, Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa believe marriage to be based on the maintenance-obedience relationship, which dictates that husbands should be providers and wives caring mothers and housewives who pay obeisance to their husbands in return.18 The gendered dimensions of child-rearing and socialization are clear and oriented to the creation of what Parsons and Bales (1956) would describe as “feminine expressive” and “masculine-instrumental” leadership roles. This structural functionalist child-rearing style is clearly exemplified in Live and Die Like a Man (Ghannam 2013), where we see

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how Egyptian boys and girls are taught what is expected of them as soon as they are born. A boy is taught to become a real man (i.e., tough, reasonable, strong, tender, and controlling of his wife without suffocating her) (Ghannam 2013, 31–32) and girls to become caregivers and housekeepers (13). Through this gendered socialization process, boys and girls are trained to fulfill their duties in what Stack (2004) calls “kin-work.” Kin-work is the collective labor that kin need to accomplish to survive over time and includes activities related to reproduction, care for dependents, economic survival including wage and nonwage labor, and family migrations (Stack 2004, 8–9). Kin-work is not limited to the labor of women. As has been well documented, the performance of kin-work is undergoing profound changes in Middle Eastern societies. Out-migration of males, for example, to Western Europe and the oil countries of the Middle East and North Africa, has led to an increase in de facto femaleheaded households with ambiguous results in terms of household financial welfare, child education, and the decisionmaking power of the adult women left behind (Assaad 2010). It would be interesting to see whether out-migration of males from capital-poor countries, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, to oil-producing countries in the region has led to an increase in the number of patrilocal households as much as it has led to an increase in the number of female-headed households. For instance, when Kalim’s father left his village in Lower Egypt to work in Iraq and Libya, his wife and their young children stayed behind in the house of his parents in the village for many years. When Kalim’s father returned forever, he built his own house in the village, very much to the relief of Kalim’s mother, who had felt the stay with her in-laws to be difficult. In other cases, such as in Morocco, an emigration country par excellence, wives stay behind with the children and manage the household alone (De Haas and Van Rooij 2010). High unemployment among men and a steady increase in labor force participation of women across the region have changed patterns of kin-work as well, and men sometimes marry women who are their seniors in age as well as in the financial resources they possess. In Egypt, for example, in the 1990s, in three age groups brides were older than grooms and usually these brides were also the breadwinners. These marriages constituted 25 percent of all marriages (Osman and Shahd 2003, 60). Difficulties in finding employment also lead some Egyptian men to marry foreign (Russian) women through an ‘urfi contract (Abdalla 2007). In Kalim’s case, he married a professional woman of his age a year after our Ramadan meeting. Instead of living in the house his parents were preparing for him in the village, the newlyweds moved into


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the household of the bride’s mother in Cairo for several years until Kalim and his wife could afford to rent an apartment themselves. But, if men are no longer the main providers of housing and financial maintenance, and sometimes even live in the house of the wife’s natal family, how can a husband in such a case exercise control over his wife and expect her to pay obeisance to him? This question applies all the more to cases where women have their own domicile and sources of income, as was the case with Kalim’s landlady. The nonprovision of a marital domicile by the husband was an issue explicitly addressed by the Saudi citizen whose question to the grand mufti led to the latter’s landmark fatwa on misyar in 1996. The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, however, did not address this issue at all (Arabi 2001, 165). In the following, I will elaborate in more detail on what high-ranking religious scholars in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen perceive to be the main conditions of Muslim marriage.

Religious Understandings of Marriage and Divorce Marriage in Islamic Jurisprudence

From the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), the marriage of Kalim’s landlady as well as the misyar and frind marriages discussed above are valid when there is a marriage contract that meets the following conditions: consent of both parties to the marriage; consent of the wife’s marriage guardian (wali),19 and the presence of two witnesses, who serve as a guarantee for the publicity of the wedding (Peters 2006, 21).20 Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslims. The legal effects of marriage are such that it makes sexual intercourse between the spouses possible. It also gives a husband the right to marital control of his wife, which usually means that the wife must live in the marital home the husband prepared for her; that she must allow him to have sexual intercourse with her; and that she does not leave the marital home without his consent, among other things (Peters 2006, 41). In turn, a wife is entitled to a dower (mahr or sadaq)21 and maintenance (nafaqa), usually consisting of food, clothing, and housing (including furniture and kitchen utensils) (Peters 2006, 38). Except for the Hanafites and Shiites, the other schools of law regard the nonprovision of maintenance as a ground for which the wife can demand rescission of the marriage. She can also try to collect it from him as a debt (Peters 2006, 39). As the owner of several apartment buildings in Cairo, Kalim’s landlady was a wealthy divorced woman who wanted her husband to provide

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her with company rather than housing and maintenance. Nevertheless, the fact that her husband did not provide maintenance is a ground for dissolution of the marriage in most Sunni schools of law, should the wife desire so. It does not, however, make the marriage void. In all likelihood the marriage of Kalim’s landlady, as well as misyar and frind marriages in general, is valid from the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence as long as the conditions of mutual consent, consent of the wali, and two witnesses have been met. Below I explain how, over the past two decades, influential religious scholars in Sunni Islam have discussed alternative marital relationships that provoke much social controversy (because of their partial secrecy and the nonprovision of maintenance by the husband) but that, nevertheless, are valid from a fiqh point of view. Contemporary Religious Interpretations of Misyar and Frind Marriages

In the 1990s, the late Egyptian sheikh of al-Azhar, Jad al-Haqq ‘Ali Jad al-Haqq (1917–1996) rejected misyar marriage, saying that it was tantamount to temporary marriage (zawaj al-mut‘a). Immediately after his death in March 1996, however, religious understandings of misyar marriage underwent radical changes. While the issue of misyar continues to provoke much controversy among religious scholars, at the time of this writing the dominant position is that misyar and frind marriages are religiously valid. In September 1996, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Baz, was the first to legitimize misyar marriage. Since in the Saudi judicial system fatwas of the grand mufti become law of the land, Ibn Baz gave both religious and legal authority to an issue that was provoking heated public debates, with opponents’ asserting that monogamy should be the norm and proponents’ retorting that technically misyar (and the inclusion of whatever stipulations, including those pertaining to secrecy, cohabitation, and maintenance) is permissible and actually a blessing to a society in which many women become spinsters due to prolonged education. The mufti took a position in this debate by claiming that while polygyny is allowed, husbands should not be cowards and should make the misyar marriage publicly known, above the necessary condition of two witnesses. In so doing, the mufti resorted to a minor opinion within the Hanbali school of law. This opinion states that when the bride’s guardian and the two witnesses mutually consent to secrecy, the marriage contract is invalid (Arabi 2001, 166). In what the Egyptian press described as “a step that . . . [causes] intense debate among the religious scholars of Egypt,” former state


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mufti Nasr Farid Wasil (r. 1996–2002) issued in November 2000 a fatwa in which he argued that as long as the basic conditions of Islamic marriage are rendered in an official marriage contract and the marriage is not limited in duration, there is no harm in the wife renouncing some of her rights.22 According to the Egyptian mufti, these basic conditions are an offer and acceptance between the spouses, the consent of the wali of the wife, two witnesses, the payment of a sadaq (dower), and ishhar and i‘lan (announcement).23 The fatwa provoked much controversy among the religious scholars in Egypt as well as numerous organizations for the rights of women, who worried that it would only benefit businessmen and rich men from the Gulf countries who would marry an Egyptian girl for the summer and then leave her, pregnant or not. A few years later, in Yemen, al-Zindani’s fatwa on frind marriage was also discussed in the context of contemporary marriages (Dahlgren 2012). It would make it easier for a Saudi man to marry a Yemeni girl for the summer without being responsible for financially maintaining her (and the children). Similar to the fatwa on misyar marriages, the one on frind marriages provoked much discussion among Egypt’s religious scholars. Most of them agreed that frind marriage is a solution for Muslim minorities in the West but not for those living in Islamic societies, and they accused al-Zindani of providing religious legitimacy to sinful relationships. They espoused different views on the issue of a husband’s obligation to pay maintenance, with some claiming that while maintenance (nafaqa) and housing (sukkan) are marital duties, in their absence the marriage is still valid. Others, such as al-Azhar professor and member of the High Council of Islamic Affairs in Cairo, ‘Abd al-‘Azim alMat‘ami, rejected the fatwa, saying that it tampers with the element that is critical to the stability of the family: housing. By living in the same house, spouses can exchange respect and compassion. Moreover, he asked rhetorically, when children are born, will they live in the house of their mother’s parents with the father visiting them as a visitor?24 In 2004, the debate on misyar was given renewed vigor when wellknown Egyptian Qatar-based religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi contradicted the Saudi mufti’s position on misyar in two important ways. In his widely viewed television interview on misyar marriages on AlJazeera, al-Qaradawi stated that, first, secrecy in misyar marriages is not forbidden as long as two witnesses and the wali have consented to it in writing. Second, in contrast to the mufti, al-Qaradawi stressed the importance of written certification (ishhad), to the point that this would render an otherwise secret marriage legitimate (li-yukhruj ‘an al-siriyya wa huwwa al-ishhad).25

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In 2007, al-Azhar’s Academy for Islamic Research shared this point of view when it approved of misyar marriage on condition that it should be officially registered. In April 2009, then Egyptian state mufti, ‘Ali Juma‘a (r. 2003–2013) also stressed the importance of registration. He said that a husband and a wife have the freedom to decide that the husband will not live with his wife and instead visit her whenever it suits him. But, he added, the marriage must be officially registered.26 It is significant that almost all religious scholars remained silent on whether the nonprovision of maintenance by the husband would affect his authority (qiwama) over his wife. In 1996, when the petitioner had explicitly requested that the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia give his opinion on the fact that in misyar marriages the husband does not provide housing, the mufti had remained silent (Arabi 2001), a pattern that was repeated in debates that unfolded later in Egypt. Only al-Qaradawi had been clear on the issue. In the 2004 television interview, he claimed that even when husbands do not provide maintenance (nafaqa) and housing—because the wife is more affluent, or because the husband already has a family and children—they still have a higher authority in marriage. After all, he added, when in a “normal” marriage the wife provides for her husband, this does not render the marriage void, nor does it affect his qiwama.27 Hence, despite religious scholars’ divergent views on misyar and frind marriages, they had two things in common: they remained silent on the issue of a woman’s obedience to her husband, and almost all of them stressed that the misyar or frind marriage be registered with the state authorities. In the next section, I will elaborate on the issues of marriage registration and the maintenance-obedience relationship from a legal point of view. Legal Understandings of Marriage and Divorce Beirut, March 2017. Excerpt from fieldnotes: Maryam was a student in English language and literature when she fled Syria in 2012. Continuing her studies at a university in Beirut, she met her current husband Fatih, who was studying at the same university. After a courtship of two years, they married in the Sunni courthouse of Beirut in 2015, in the presence of two witnesses: a friend of Fatih and a court clerk. Through the religious court, their marriage was automatically registered with the Ministry of Interior Affairs. They did not have the money for a large wedding party, and also did not feel like organizing one. Being abroad, Maryam’s family could not attend it. Moreover, Fatih’s mother had opposed the marriage and had decided not to


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attend the ceremony in the court (Fatih’s father had passed away a few years earlier). The couple’s ishhar, Maryam said, was made on Facebook. After their marriage, Maryam and Fatih did not move in together. Maryam remained living in the students’ dorm and Fatih with his mother. Being students without regular incomes, they did not have the financial means to rent or buy an apartment. Through a website the couple consulted, they thought that Maryam could apply for residence on the basis of her being the wife of a Lebanese man, and so the couple went to the Ministry of Interior at the end of 2015. Those who apply for a Lebanese residence permit can expect “rain on their parade,” as Maryam found out two weeks later when an inspector from the amn al-‘amm (general security) department of the Ministry of Interior called her, asking her angrily how she could have had the guts to apply for residence on the basis of marriage while she and Fatih were not sharing a household!

Marriage Registration

Above we have seen that most of the religious scholars discussed believe that official registration places alternative marriages such as frind and misyar on an equal footing with conventional marriages, at least in a religious respect. This is remarkable inasmuch as Islamic jurisprudence does not require registration of marriage or divorce for these acts to be valid according to the sharia. It is even more remarkable given the fact that the introduction of registration requirements in most Middle Eastern societies at some point in the twentieth century suddenly left unregistered marriages that met all the requirements of religious marriage void of recognition at the legal level. This made it especially hard for women to seek redress in the courts for matters such as divorce and paternity dispute cases. In the 2004 Moroccan family law, widely proclaimed to be the most progressive sharia-based family law reform in the Muslim world of the 2000s, the legislator even stopped referring to unregistered marriages, which meet all sharia requirements, as marriages at all and instead describes them as engagements (khutuba) (Article 156 Family Law 2004). The importance attached to registration sometimes gives legal legitimacy to relationships that, while registered, are controversial on a social level because they are concealed from the family of the husband (including his first wife and her family), or both families altogether. In Morocco, for example, legal marriage requirements do not prescribe the presence of witnesses other than two public notaries who must hear and notarize the offer and acceptance pronounced by the two spouses (Article 13 Family Law 2004). The text of the law “only” requires the spouses to possess the legal capacity to marry; to not have an intention to cancel the dower; and to be free of any legal impedi-

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ments. The presence of the wife’s guardian is no longer a necessary condition for contracting marriage. The situation in Lebanon is different, at least with regard to Sunni Muslim marriage, where the presence of the woman’s guardian is a legal prerequisite (Al-Jaziri 2001).28 With Maryam’s guardian living outside Lebanon, Maryam needed witnesses to testify that her guardian could not attend the wedding and sign the marriage contract. In Maryam’s case, the major of the district she was living in (mukhtar) signed the necessary paper, a service for which she had to pay in dollars. She said she was not the only one: with the influx of approximately 1.5 million migrants from war-torn Syria, these types of services are becoming big business in Lebanon. However, even though her marriage was now valid from a Sunni family law perspective, it was not accepted as such by the street-level bureaucrats dealing with her case in another area of law: migration law. In her analysis of transnational families and the nation, Van Walsum argues that “family norms have always served to distinguish the national from the foreign” (2008, 6–7). While her analysis focuses on Western Europe, the Netherlands in particular, its main tenets resemble to a great extent the situation Maryam found herself in. In her case, the legal definition of marriage apparently had different connotations in Lebanese (Sunni) family law than in Lebanese migration law. Although this requires further research, with the large influx of Syrian migrants into Lebanon, Maryam probably was not the only “foreigner” who had to deal with a situation in which different legal registers apply to the same case. In an era when, since 2005, the migrant population in the Middle East and North Africa has more than doubled (Connor 2016), it is worth analyzing how migrants make use of the legal system in cases related to marriage. This analysis should not be limited to family law; for too long the field of MENA court studies has focused on family law, neglecting the study not only of other fields of law, such as migration and labor, but also of categories of litigants other than urban Muslim women who also make use of these laws, such as rural women, non-Muslim women, and men. And where the study of Muslim migrant women in Western Europe and North America is proliferating, there are very few studies that focus on the ways migrant women and men in the Middle East and North Africa deal with the legal aspects of family life matters, such as marriage, childbirth, and divorce. A Syrian migrant who marries a Lebanese national can apply for a residence permit on the basis of marriage. But how is marriage defined in such cases? And does there exist a discrepancy between the way the


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Lebanese authorities define marriages involving a migrant and those between Lebanese nationals? Maryam found that her zawaj frind, despite its official registration with both the religious authorities of the Beirut Sunni court and the state officials of the Ministry of Interior, did not qualify as marriage because her Lebanese husband had failed to provide the couple with a marital domicile. In Lebanon, an inspector from the General Security Department (amn al-‘amm) pays unannounced visits at work, at home, or, in the case of Maryam, at the university to see whether the information the applicant provides for the residence permit—in this case on the basis of marriage—is accurate. Sometimes even undercover inspectors inspect the life the applicant leads. In Maryam’s and Fatih’s case, an inspector had found out that they were not living together, and despite the formal registration of their marriage with both the religious and state authorities, the young couple’s relationship did not qualify as marriage. The example of Maryam’s marriage to a Lebanese national makes it clear that within one country, one ministry even, different legal registers apply with regard to marriage. Van Walsum (2008) argues that such techniques are employed to exclude the foreigner, but on a deeper, more psychological level, I argue that such techniques are also employed to sustain, through the figure of the outsider, highly idealized notions of the patriarchal breadwinner-homemaker family model. Since this model is subject to profound changes and can no longer be embodied in the insider, it is upheld by requiring the outsider to conform to it. The heated debates on ‘urfi marriages throughout the Middle East and North Africa signify a similar mechanism (Sonneveld 2012b). When gendered notions of manhood and womanhood are not in line with the everyday lived realities of many men and women, the other (i.e., the migrant, the university student, the celebrity who marries through ‘urfi) is castigated for initiating alternative marital relationships where a husband clearly is not in a position to control the life of his wife and their children, either because of matrilocal residence, as was the case with Kalim, who moved into the household of his wife’s family, or because husband and wife live in separate households, as was the case with Maryam and Fatih. The blaming of the other conceals a reality in which many husbands who married the conventional way have lost this control as well, through migration or unemployment, for example. The link between loss of control and emasculation is broken as the debate on women’s unilateral no-fault divorce through khul‘ has made clear, before but especially after the January 25 revolution of 2011. In the weeks following the ouster of President Mubarak, the Egyptian public was witness to the sudden and very vocal appearance of groups of divorced fathers

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who demanded a revolution in family law. In public media and in highprofile places such as al-Azhar and the newly established parliament, these divorced fathers were advocating new notions of fatherhood by insisting on a concept of joint care (riʿaya mushtaraka), the ideal whereby both parents take care of the children on the basis of mutual trust and consultation instead of delegating this task to the mother alone (Sonneveld and Lindbekk 2015). Interestingly, the divorced fathers did not propose new understandings of the husband-wife relationship. One of their main aims was to abolish khul‘ or at least change it from a divorce on the unilateral demand of the wife into one that required the consent of the husband. Over the past two decades, legislatures in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and even in Qatar and Saudi Arabia have made room to accommodate alternative husband-wife relationships in family law legislation. Religious authorities have provided religious legitimacy to alternative forms of marriage in which husbands drop most of their marital responsibilities and wives most of their marital rights, but they have for the most part stopped short of addressing the issue of a wife’s spousal obedience. Legislatures throughout the Middle East and North Africa that tackled the issue of spousal obedience did so in two ways. Often under considerable pressure from national and international organizations for the rights of women, they either abolished the supremacy of the husband in marriage altogether as happened in Algeria (2005) and Morocco (2004) or they made it easier for women to file for unilateral no-fault divorce through khul‘. Conclusion While recognizing that there are nonmaterial gains from marriage, Gary Becker’s theory on marriage cannot explain why the gain from marriage in the Middle East and North Africa is still very high, despite the fact that fertility rates have dropped significantly and women have more access to divorce, education, and the labor market. Moreover, religious and legal understandings of marriage have changed profoundly over the past two decades. But where religious and especially legal definitions profess a more individualistic approach to marriage and sometimes even do away with the consent of the wali and a husband’s control, on a societal level marriage is still perceived in terms of what Joseph (1999b) calls “patriarchal connectivity.” In this chapter, connectivity is closely related to ishhar, the announcement of marriage. Religious authorities and legal regulations throughout


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the Middle East and North Africa attach great importance to registration of marriage, officially claiming that registration requirements serve to assist fulfillment of the publicity of the marriage (Welchman 2007, 54). While it is certainly true that large parts of the public attach great importance to registration of marriage—because it gives access to services such as education and medical care, or, in Maryam’s case, residence— recognition by the state amounts to little when this is not paralleled by recognition of the relationship inside the community. Marriage is a highly valued form of connectivity as it is a rite of passage into adulthood. For this reason, recognition by the community through a large wedding party is crucial. Through official marriage registration, the state is able to control the private affairs of its citizens, at least to some extent. Moreover, in the context of patriarchy, marriage is an institution that grants the husband marital control over his wife. Such a relationship may be difficult to establish in the conventional way as the high financial demands of marriage make it hard for men to marry in the first place. But even within marriage, women’s access to education and the labor market, divorce, and the financial difficulties and migration of husbands make it hard for husbands to control the lives of their wives. This chapter has shown that connectivity is an active intention as people use their agency to marry in alternative ways, through frind or misyar, for example. In such marriages, husbands are exempted from the legal and social duty to provide maintenance to their wives, the main pillar underlying their authority and control in marriage. While religious authorities and legislatures increasingly give recognition to such relationships, the general public does not accept them as legitimate forms of marriage, and this even applies to those who have entered into such an alternative union themselves. In September 2016, a year and a half after the legal conclusion of their marriage, Maryam and Fatih rented a small apartment in Beirut and finally started living together. They threw a small wedding party, much to the relief of Maryam, who felt that despite the religious and partial legal recognition of their marriage as well as the couple’s ishhar on Facebook, the wedding party truly signified the beginning of their marriage and the end of what she called their hidden relationship. They were no longer just a registered but also a married couple. Kalim, too, had felt that when he was finally able to move his wife and their little daughter out of the household of his mother-in-law into a separate apartment, his frind marriage had ended and true marital life had started.

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1. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (June 2004), there were 33,542,913 females and 35,105,576 males in Egypt in 2004. 2. When there is a rise in the earning power of women, it becomes more expensive to have women spend time at nonmarket activities (Becker 1981, 350). It also raises the relative cost of children and, in time, will reduce the demand for children. When the sexual division of labor becomes less advantageous, the gain from marriage is reduced (Becker 1981, 353) and divorce is more likely to occur. 3. These novel types of marriages in Sunni Islam are sometimes equated by critics to the temporary zawaj al-mut‘a, which are accepted in Shia Islam. For a more detailed comparison, see Sonneveld (2012b). 4. Other forms of alternative marriage would be same-sex relationships and those between Muslim women and non-Muslim men (as legalized in Tunisia in 2017). Due to a lack of empirical data, they fall outside the scope of this chapter (but see Habib 2007 and Whitaker 2006). 5. The exact number is difficult to establish, as many women do not see themselves as head of a household. Therefore, they are not represented in official statistics. An anthropological study established that 18–30 percent of urban Egyptian households are headed by women (Bibars 2001, 58). 6. I define unilateral divorce as a divorce in which one spouse can terminate the marriage without the consent of the other spouse. 7. These were apostasy, impotence, and prolonged absence of the husband. 8. For an overview of understandings and practices of khul‘ in the Muslim world, see Sonneveld and Stiles (2016). 9. In practice, judges do sometimes ask women why they want to break up the marriage (Sonneveld 2012a). This was especially the case in the years following the introduction of the law (al-Sharmani 2009). It does not stop the divorce, however. 10. In a study on divorce culture and marital gender equality in twenty-two countries, Yodanis (2005) comes to the conclusion that gender-equal access to divorce leads to stability within marriage. 11. According to statistics of the Moroccan Ministry of Justice (2012), between 2000 and 2011 the number of divorces was highest in 2003 (44,922), the year preceding the 2004 Family Law reform. It dropped to 26,914 in 2004, and was 22,937 in 2011. The numbers of marriages in these years were 263,553, 236,574, and 325,415. 12. United Nations, Demographic and Social Statistics: Marriage and Divorce,, accessed February 23, 2017. 13. Usually, a link is made between female education and delay of first marriage, but for the early twentieth century, Kholoussy (2010) notes that educated Egyptian males were castigated for their refusal to marry and for leaving women of marriageable age behind as spinsters. 14. Qasim Amin was not alone in this. Other Egyptian observers also believed that “educated men could not bear to remain married to an incompatible partner” (Kholoussy 2010, 83). 15. The decline was slower in Morocco and Yemen, where the illiteracy rates dropped from 70.5 to 61.2 percent and from 79.5 to 73.7 percent, respectively (Tzannatos and Kaur 2003, 57). 16. See, however, Rashad (2000, 89), who remarks that the transition to lower fertility rates was as much a product of development as it was of underdevelopment.


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In Sudan, for example, the decline in fertility was the result of delay in marriage, which, in its turn, was the result of deteriorating economic conditions. 17. Women who have not reached the legal age of marriage might also conclude misyar marriages. In Saudi Arabia there is no legal age of marriage, but in the UAE, where misyar is practiced as well, the legal age of marriage is eighteen for both men and women. 18. This equally applies to marriages of Christians across the Middle East, both legally and socially. See, for example, Van Eijk’s (2016) comparative study on marriage and divorce among Sunni Muslims, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox in Syria. 19. The consent of the marriage guardian is not a necessary condition in the Hanafi school of law and the Shiite school of law (Peters 2006, 18–19). 20. The presence of witnesses is obligatory in the Sunni schools of law and commendable in Shia Islam (Peters 2006, 21). 21. “A stipulation not to pay a brideprice or an invalid brideprice vitiates the marriage contract under Malikite law (although the nullity is covered by consummation), whereas according to the other Schools the marriage remains valid and the proper brideprice (mahr al-mithl) is due” (Peters 2006, 35). 22. “The Mufti of Egypt Overturns the Fatwa of the Former Sheikh of Al-Azhar and Authorizes the Marriage of al-Misyar,” November 2000, http://archive.aawsat .com/details.asp?article=13863&issueno=8026#.WK2u2yMrLPA. 23. “The Mufti of Egypt Overturns the Fatwa of the Former Sheikh of Al-Azhar and Authorizes the Marriage of al-Misyar,” November 2000, http://archive.aawsat .com/details.asp?article=13863&issueno=8026#.WK2u2yMrLPA. 24. “The Fatwa of Friend’s Marriage Breaks Out a Doctrinal Disagreement Between the Scholars of Al-Azhar,” September 30, 2003, /details.asp?issueno=8800&article=195370#.WGuAZSMrLPA. 25. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “Zawaj al-misyar,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 1998, 26. See 27. al-Qaradawi, “Zawaj al-Misyar.” 28. A bride who is not a virgin, or is divorced or widowed, can marry without the consent of the wali, who is usually the father. If the bride is a virgin, whatever her age, she cannot marry without the consent of the wali; she can’t even sign the marriage contract (Al-Jaziri 2001).

5 Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Angie Abdelmonem

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a problem that crosscuts borders, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, class, and age and is not unique to or absent from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), though its prevalence varies by context. The taboo, shame, and victim-blaming behavior associated with SGBV serve to silence people and prohibit a better understanding of how ubiquitous the problem is and how it is variously expressed across contexts. One UN study found SGBV prevalence rates to be high in many MENA countries (UN 2015). According to the study, more than 30 percent of women in Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia and 47.4 percent of women in Egypt between ages fifteen and forty-nine experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime. Sexual violence rates are equally high at over 30 percent in Palestine and Turkey and over 20 percent in Jordan and Tunisia, demonstrating the need for increased attention to the problem. Activists and scholars have sought to better understand and combat SGBV in the MENA since at least the 1970s, a period that witnessed a flourishing of global activism and cooperation when women’s rights groups began identifying and challenging violent practices targeting women (Naples and Desai 2002). Initial activism in the region was marked by a concern with early marriage and pregnancy and female genital mutilation/circumcision (FGM/C), culminating in the first World Health Organization seminar in Khartoum in 1979 on “Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Africa” (WHO 1988). Participants called for “the creation of national policies, national commissions, and education programs” to eradicate these practices 73


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(Cloward 2016, 1). In the ensuing decades, activism and research on SGBV grew, particularly following the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo. Though not focused on SGBV or women’s rights per se, the conference provided an important organizing venue for the growing number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating regionally to discuss and plan forms of cooperation to combat problems around women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health rights, and SGBV (Al-Ali 2000). In preparation for the UN Fourth World Congress on Women held in Beijing in September 1995, NGOs and women’s rights activists from the MENA drafted the “Work Program for the Non-Governmental Organizations in the Arab Region,” where violence, such as honor crimes, was identified as one of four problems facing Arab and Middle Eastern women (Moghadam 2003, 284). Following the Arab revolutions, activists and scholars have directed their attention to public-space violence that is either politically commissioned by state entities at protest sites or that occurs in everyday contexts, including sexual harassment and collective/mob assaults and rapes in places like Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt (Johansson-Nogues 2013; Langohr 2013, 2014; Skalli 2014). Widely publicized incidences of collective sexual assaults and rapes in Tahrir Square have added new dimensions to our understanding of how sexual violence operates in the region. An additional area of growing attention for activists and scholars has been wartime sexual violence connected with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al-Qaeda–backed insurgent uprisings in civil war–torn areas, such as Iraq and Syria, resulting from the “war on terror.” Human trafficking, sexual slavery, and rapes targeting not only women but particular populations, such as the Yezidis and Kurds, have made visible gendered and racial rifts fueled by sectarian tensions and authoritarianism (Al-Ali 2014b). In this chapter I explore the salient features and issues around SGBV in the MENA, with attention to how violence affects both women and men, including attention to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). I begin with a definition of SGBV and its imbrication with the transnational “violence against women” movement. Following this is a discussion of current theorizing on violence against and perpetrated by men and violence against LGBT people. I then turn toward an examination of the patriarchal basis of SGBV, exploring how this has been linked to codes of honor and shame emerging from tribal society but persisting even within urban systems. I then discuss how patriarchy is embedded within private and public space violence, highlighting how gendered space helps to elide the violence LGBT people, and even men, face. The issue of culture and cultural relativism as it

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relates to SGBV is subsequently covered, along with brief descriptions of differing forms of SGBV in the MENA. Throughout, I provide examples from various MENA countries to exemplify the scope of violence across these heterogeneous cultural spaces. Defining Sexual and Gender-Based Violence After more than two decades of feminist activism, the term genderbased violence received an official definition in Article 1 of the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (UN Documents 1993). The article states, “‘violence against women’ means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Article 2 of the declaration provides further defining details, emphasizing the occurrence of gender-based violence targeting women within the family, household, and community. Accordingly, perpetrators of such violence could be individuals or collective entities, including the state. Violence is a concept frequently used but often inadequately or inconsistently defined in the scholarly literature (Jackman 2002; SmailSalhi 2013). Many definitions of violence are predicated on notions of physical injury and the use of force, while forms of nonphysical injury are often overlooked (Jackman 2002). Such definitions of violence also exclude injury that results simply from the threat of force. Jackman problematizes this narrow conceptualization of violence, noting the “fundamentally clouded” nature of injury as a concept and how social and psychological injuries are generally left out (2002, 393–395). Gender violence activists and scholars provide some of the more nuanced understandings of violence, as visible in the UN definition above. This definition emphasizes that both the physical act and the threat of it can lead to physical and nonphysical injury. This extends the definition of violence to include verbal and written actions that have the ability to injure any individual in some capacity. Gender violence has been generally defined within the framework of—and is in many ways synonymous with—“violence against women.” Women’s structurally subordinate position to men in most societies leaves them vulnerable to and the primary targets of such violence, which is normalized as part of patriarchal gender relations and is in many places encoded into legal and institutional practices. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women


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(CEDAW) is a critical tool that focuses attention on the forms of discrimination women face and enjoins states to promote more equitable social, economic, and political conditions for women (Merry 2006). Yet, the focus on women can obscure how gender violence affects all individuals. Merry (2009, 3) argues gender violence “depends on the gendered identities of the parties” involved, and its expression is mediated by the nature of the gendered relations through which it is performed. This broader understanding of gender violence recognizes that women, men, and those individuals who do not conform to normative social standards of gender and sexuality similarly face predatory and exploitative violence, which is intended to instill compliance with established or hegemonic archetypes of female and male traits and roles that privilege patriarchal and heterosexual norms. Rather, activism and research generally focus on men as perpetrators and not as possible victims. Viewing only women as victims or targets, while overwhelmingly the case, may also overlook the potential for women to perpetrate violence, which Ghanim links to a failure to better problematize female power and agency (2009, 9–11). Sexual violence is an aspect of gender-based violence, though the two terms are often used interchangeably. The World Health Organization defines sexual violence as any “sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work” (WHO 2002, 149). Sexual violence refers only to sexual acts, whereas gender-based violence includes both sexual and nonsexual violence that targets an individual because of their gender or sexual identity. Both sexual and gender-based forms of violence are a complex set of behaviors that exist along a continuum, which Kelly (1988, 48) first discussed to highlight common elements underpinning all forms of SGBV. She states the notion of a continuum does not mean that violence can be linearly organized in terms of the degree of seriousness or the negative impact on the person who experiences the violence (Kelly 1988, 49); rather, it illustrates how forms of SGBV are intricately linked and that there is no easy distinction between them. Violence Against and Perpetrated by Men

Globally, there are few studies or statistics pointing toward the prevalence of SGBV targeting men. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report from their ongoing National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey that one in seventy-one men, or 1.6 million (1.4 percent) men nationally, admitted to having been raped in

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their lifetime (CDC 2011). Additionally, the study indicates one in five men, or 22.2 percent, suffered some form of sexual violence other than rape, such as being forced to penetrate someone, being coerced into sex, or experiencing some other form of unwanted sexual contact. Currently, there are no national or international studies measuring the scope of rape, sexual assault, or other forms of SGBV against men in the MENA. The general focus of activism and research on SGBV is on men as perpetrators and the need to reshape masculinity (rigulla) in order to prevent male violence that targets women. A number of themes in the extant literature on violence and masculinity in the MENA, however, are critical to point out here. Violence against men is often highly politicized and carried out by state agents while men are in custody. For instance, Weishut (2015) provides a detailed discussion of the forms of sexual violence Palestinian men in the Israeli-controlled territories face upon arrest, in detention, and in prisons. He highlights the testimonies of Palestinian torture survivors in which men reported threats of rape, the threat of the rape of women in their families, the threat of and the actual insertion of objects into the rectum, having security officials step on their testicles, forced nudity during interrogations, and more. Such acts involve the threat of and actual sexual acts targeting individuals in custody or their loved ones, whether those loved ones are female or male. Violence is also one facet in a broader sociopolitical process of shaping masculinity in the region. For Palestinian men, the above-described forms of violence in detention settings has become a rite of passage by which they demonstrate their bravery and earn prestige, respect, and eventually positions of leadership within their community (Peteet 1994, 39). While not seeking out violence, Peteet asserts it has become a ritual practice that demonstrates men’s commitment to political action and their transition to adulthood (1994, 41). Yet, state violence is not the only context within which this occurs. Though she does not explicitly frame it as such, Farha Ghannam’s (2013) ethnographic analysis of Egyptian masculinity shows how violence serves as a disciplinary technique in the making of a proper man (ragil). Families and communities variously deploy nonviolent verbal and violent physical acts that shape what manhood and masculinity mean. For example, Ghannam discusses how social stigma, such as using insults like submissive (khawal), weak (kheekha), or not serious (khafeef), aids in the production of desired qualities of “domination, assertiveness, and decisiveness” in young boys as they become men (2013, 5). Since the Arab Spring, scholars have drawn attention to the problematic link between sexual violence and some notion of masculinity-in-crisis, rather than to the gendered politics of state entities that commission such acts (Amar 2011a). Psychologist Roger Horrocks (1994a; 1994b) was the


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first to posit masculinity-in-crisis in reference to the deconstruction of masculinity within the growing feminist movement, which broke down gendered categories and norms. It is linked to hegemonic masculinity, first defined by R. W. Connell as “the configuration of a gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (1995, 77). In her analysis of hegemonic masculinity in the MENA, Inhorn refers to this as a “negative trait complex” (2012, 46) in which certain dominant ideas become archetypes of what men aspire to, or should aspire to. A crisis of identity results when men are unable to live up to aspirational hegemonic norms of masculinity. In MENA contexts, masculinity-in-crisis is visible in a number of analyses. For Israeli Palestinian men, Sa’ar and Yahia-Younis (2008) maintain that a crisis ensues when men are barred from the armed services, which is required of all Israelis, at the same time they are unable to join in resistance activity and ritually achieve manhood, as noted for Palestinian prisoners above. In Egypt, scholars argue neoliberal economic policies and structural adjustment programs threaten masculinity by undermining men’s roles as heads of households, breadwinners, and even political actors, which leaves them “confused about their position in society” (Abdalla 2014, 59). In reference to Egypt’s street sexual harassment problem, Peoples (2008) says that neoliberalism in the postinfitah (economic opening) period changed the structure of what she calls “patriarchal connectivity” and, consequently, male and female roles in private and public spaces. She asserts sexual harassment is an expression of masculinity-in-crisis, which allows men to “symbolically reclaim their masculinity in public” (Peoples 2008, 3). Similarly, Ismail (2006, 108–114) refers to this as “marginalized masculinities,” where men in subordinate positions reassert male dominance through patriarchal practices. Discussing the nature of gendered relations in the Cairene neighborhood of Bulaq, Ismail recounts a story conveyed to her by male informants of a powerful man’s son, who escaped punishment after committing an act of sexual transgression against a woman in her own home. For Ismail, her informants’ response highlights how the reproduction of violence is equated with “higher power” (Ismail 2006, 112). Violence Against LGBT People

Violence against LGBT people is even less understood than violence directed at men and has not received much attention from activists and scholars. When it does receive attention, it is often in highly politicized

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contexts in which such violence is perpetrated by state institutions or actors. A report issued by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights references two cases specific to the MENA, one of which is in relation to state violence (UNHRC 2011a). Citing the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the report discusses an apartment raid in Egypt that led to the arrest of ten individuals who were charged with debauchery for “engaging in consensual sexual relations with others of the same sex” (UNHRC 2011b, 16). Those arrested reported being “insulted, beaten on the back with a stick, slapped on the face and repeatedly kicked” by officers in the Morality Police Department located in the Mogamma’ in downtown Cairo (UNHRC 2011b, 16). The report is one of a few highlighting similar cases of arbitrary arrest of and violence toward LGBT people—usually gay men—in Egypt. The most infamous was a 2001 incident in which fifty-two were arrested and charged in a police raid on the Queen Boat, a disco and known popular hangout for gay men on the Nile (Awwad 2010; Pratt 2007). A 2004 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report detailed the violence these men experienced, including being insulted (being called khawal, the equivalent of “faggot”) and ridiculed; being beaten with fists, belts, pipes, and batons; and being forced to remove clothing or having their clothing ripped from their bodies to expose their underwear. Many of their names and work addresses were published in the newspapers, allowing for the harassment of their family members (Pratt 2007, 132). Pratt argues the public spectacle surrounding the arrest and prosecution of these individuals was a means for the state to counter insecurity around declining economic conditions—and thus a crisis around masculine identity and sexual performance—and to promote their “‘Islamic’ credentials” to counter the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood (2007, 134–137). Honor killings are another aspect of the violence faced by LGBT people in the region, often occurring within politicized contexts in which national identity is equated with particular moral sensibilities. The second case referenced in the UN High Commissioner’s report details what HRW called a “killing campaign” in early 2009 against suspected homosexual men by local militias in Iraq (UNHRC 2011a; HRW 2009). Many interviewed by HRW believed these militias were linked to the Mahdi Army, which they thought was attempting to rebuild its reputation as it was reemerging following a two-year absence. One “executioner” interviewed by HRW referred to homosexuality as a “social illness” and said such killings were an attempt to “stabilize society.” A Sadr City leader was also quoted in the report as calling homosexuality a “disaster” and as saying that “we must correct the morals of the nation” (HRW 2009). According to HRW, such killings occur within


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a context where norms of masculinity and sexuality play a role in the honor and shame of patriarchal, tribal society. Honor killings of LGBT people occur also at the hands of family members as a means of restoring familial honor. In the Turkish context, McClain and Waite-Wright claim such killings are tied to community norms, in which “homosexuality and perceived homosexuality are thought to bring shame to the family and the community” (2016, 157). They link this to a historic convention in Islamic societies of criminalizing homosexuality under sharia (Islamic law), while noting there is little mentioned in Islamic canons about homosexuality. At the same time, they contend the Turkish constitution does not guarantee freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation (McClain and WaiteWright 2016, 160). Since 2010, there have been sixteen documented murders of LGBT people in Turkey, but the authors note that LGBT people rarely report hate crimes committed against them, out of fear for their safety (McClain and Waite-Wright 2016, 161–162). The lack of legal protections for LGBT people is cited for most countries in the region. A 2013 report issued by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) found that seventy-six countries globally have criminalized homosexuality (ILGA 2013, 20–23). Within the MENA, fifteen countries—the majority of countries making up the region—have also criminalized homosexuality, including Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The legal status of homosexuality in Iraq is listed as unclear in the report, while four countries—Bahrain, Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey—either have made some legal reforms or no information could be found about the legal status of homosexuality. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, homosexuality is punishable by death. Patriarchy and Sexual Politics in the Middle East and North Africa Sexual and gender-based forms of violence are an expression of patriarchy, which is a complex and shifting phenomenon that may be defined, in its broadest sense, as a mode of social relations in which men dominate over women (Ghanim 2009; Joseph 1996; Smail-Salhi 2013; Walby 1989). Much of the MENA constitutes what Moghadam calls the “belt of classic patriarchy,” which she says is “characterized by male domination, son preference, restrictive codes of behavior for women, and the association of family honor with female virtue” (2004, 143). Classic patriarchy

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is grounded in the patrilineal and patrilocal family, where the father exerts authority and control over younger men and women within his extended kin network. Women and girls are subordinate not only to the father and other men within the family but also to senior women and are caught up within life cycle patterns in which they also later move into more senior positions over younger women. Life cycle patterns are important in explaining why women are seemingly complicit in reproducing social structures that ultimately disadvantage them (i.e., women are not without some measure of power and control in this system once they attain older age). Moreover, Kandiyoti argues that women of various classes and in varying cultures develop unique strategies to manage and negotiate the “concrete constraints” of the patriarchal system—what she calls the “patriarchal bargain” (1988, 275). Herzog and Yahia-Younis (2007) extend this further by arguing that men in subordinate positions, such as minority Palestinian-Israeli men, similarly bargain within dominant structures that disadvantage them in order to extend their own opportunities, yet in ways that still maintain their dominance over women. Patriarchy bridges social relations with economic production and political structures. Classic patriarchy is a precapitalist mode of social relations in which production and property are mediated through the family or household and ownership and descent follow the patriline (Moghadam 2004, 141). Moghadam argues classic patriarchy persists within the Middle East and North Africa given the existence of widespread precapitalist social organization grounded in rural and agricultural or tribal and nomadic economic lifeways (2004, 144). Capitalism and neoliberalism have weakened patriarchal structures though not eliminated them, as many argue patriarchy is not derivative of any particular economic system (Ortner 2014; Walby 1989). Across the MENA, the povertization of the family and redeployments in the labor of men and women have resulted in significant changes to the patriarchal family, such that young men are no longer under the control of authoritarian fathers and young women are no longer strictly subordinate to their mothers-in-law (Kandiyoti 1988). The structures of classic patriarchy in the region, therefore, are in tension with new forms of (neo)patriarchy that are no longer bound by kinship alone but are inscribed in political institutions and “the global macro-structure, the overarching system of states, corporations, and military organization” (Ortner 2014, 533). The control of women, their sexuality, and their reproductive capacity through violent and nonviolent means by both male and female family members is a salient aspect of patriarchy. In the MENA, such forms of control are rooted in historic notions of honor (ʿirḍ and sharaf) and shame (‘ar and ayb). Classic ethnographies, such as those on the Kabyle


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of Algeria and the Awlad Ali Bedouin of Egypt, highlight the importance of both concepts with respect to the maintenance of the social order in patriarchal tribal society (Abou-Zeid 1966; Bourdieu 1966). Accordingly, an individual’s loss of honor is reflected as the family’s loss of honor. For women, the most serious offense to familial honor is the loss of virginity through premarital sexual relations, the lack of chastity, or even the hint of sexual impropriety whether actual or not (Kozma 2011). Abou-Zeid (1966), and others since, explores how the honor of the family is closely tied with the honor (ʿirḍ) of women in Arab societies, where the family is responsible for protecting and controlling female sexuality to avoid gossip, slanderous accusations, and shame (‘ar) and where women are also responsible for restricting their own behavior and preserving their bodily integrity. Abou-Zeid notes that among the Awlad Ali it was not uncommon for women of questionable reputation to disappear and for families to regain honor lost through the sexual (mis)conduct of one of its women by “getting rid of her” (1966, 253). Outside the tribal context, honor and shame remain important concepts in the regulation of urban sexual relations (Dodd 1973). While tribal societies are not strictly sex segregated, the division between men and women is typically more rigid than in contemporary urban contexts where women are indelible features of public life. Here, a number of factors challenge historic codes of honor, including changing family structures, the disconnection of families from their extended rural kin network, exposure to new norms of gender and sexuality through media, the increasing normalization of public gendered interactions, and the wide degree of individual mobility, where policing family members becomes more difficult as they move about the city. Dodd (1973) argues that despite the seeming challenges presented by urbanization, behavioral control continues to persist at neighborhood levels, given that most people spend their lives interacting regularly with their community neighbors. The community essentially becomes a fictive kin network, supplanting the historically extended tribal or rural family. Communities are a vital force behind the surveillance of its members, particularly of women, and the maintenance of individual and familial honor. Violence in the Private and Public Sphere Space in patriarchal systems is frequently organized into female and male domains, where the domain of women is associated with spaces demarcated as private, which includes the home and those areas historically outside the reach of state control, and where the domain of men is associated with spaces demarcated as public, which includes the realm outside the

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home where economic and political activity take place (Duncan 1996; Nelson 1974). Theoretically, women in the MENA have long been viewed as keepers of the private sphere, as evidenced by Abou-Zeid’s (1966) discussion of the Awlad Ali, for whom the home (bayt), inclusive and representative of the family, is sacred, private, and the refuge of women (harīm). Dominant social norms in many MENA countries position women as more concerned with and responsible for the home, family, and children, and suggest that women themselves prefer the respectability associated with being sitt al-bayt (“lady of the house”) to the hardships of economic labor outside the home—or that they, minimally, project this preference in order to maintain their respectability (Hoodfar 1997; Hassanein 2010). However, many theorists have argued the private-public binary does not hold up in the MENA context and that it reflects an ethnocentric understanding of spatial orientations and a class bias mapped onto MENA societies by Western, secular modernity that does not represent the breadth of women’s experiences in the region (Abu Lughod 1998; El-Guindi 1999). Yet, this gendering of the private sphere and the position of the home as outside the reach of the state, regulated only by families that vigorously defend its sanctity (and, therefore, the sanctity of women’s bodies), leaves women vulnerable to and with little protection from intrafamilial violence. In the Moroccan context, Sadiqi argues this division of space “sanction[s] all forms of physical and moral violence” against women in the private sphere (2011, 225). The state is often complicit in reproducing violence in the private sphere, with inadequate legal protections or ineffectual enforcement of laws that do exist to protect women. In Lebanon, a 2014 HRW report states the country’s domestic violence law narrowly defines the problem and encompasses acts covered in the penal code related to “forced begging, prostitution, homicide, adultery and the use of force or threats to obtain sex” (HRW 2014a). The law does not address the physical violence of one spouse over another or marital rape. In Morocco, a 2016 HRW report notes the failure of law enforcement officials, from police to prosecutors, in assisting victims to move cases forward, often refusing to arrest male perpetrators and forcing women to return home to their abusers. In addition, in the United Arab Emirates a separate 2014 HRW report indicates the Federal Supreme Court in 2010 affirmed the right of a husband to “physically chastise his wife” (HRW 2014b). According to this report, there were more than 500 reported cases of husbands’ abusing their wives in 2013 in Abu Dhabi, which tripled in 2014. The lack of adequate legal protections creates an environment of impunity, in which private space violence goes unpunished or nominally punished and limits women’s options for redress within public or semipublic spaces and with public entities (Bedont and Hall-Martinez 1999;


Angie Abdelmonem

Domínguez-Ruvalcaba and Ravelo Blancas 2009). Women’s claims of sexual abuse are frequently met with private and public shame, from family, neighbors, community members, and from within the legal system, hindering them from coming forward to file reports or prosecute offenders (FIDH 2014). Sex, sexuality, and sexual violence, however, are not relegated only to private space but also infuse public space. The long-standing street sexual harassment problems in many MENA countries like Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are critical examples of such forms of public sexual violence (Bint Afeich 2014; Kearl 2015; Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012; Skalli 2014; Truluck 2015). Sexual harassment restricts women’s movement in public, with many reporting changes to their daily routines or making decisions to not work outside the home to avoid harassment (Kearl 2010). Moreover, given the situation, families often view the home as the safest place for women and that a solution to the problem of sexual harassment is to restrict women’s public movement (Tadros 2014). Analyses of politically motivated sexual violence in the MENA highlights its prevalence as a public space problem and as a political tool of state entities seeking to subdue opposition, particularly in places like Egypt and Tunisia (Amar 2011b; FIDH 2013; Langohr 2013, 2014; Tadros 2013, 2014). The Truth and Dignity Commission created in Tunisia in 2014 has begun to document such abuses going as far back as the 1950s (Ahmed-Zaki 2016). In Mubarak-era Egypt, politically commissioned sexual violence was visible in the 2005 “Black Wednesday” pro-democracy-linked protest, in which female activists were sexually assaulted in front of the press syndicate office (El-Mahdi 2010). In postMubarak Egypt, attacks on female protesters by hired “thugs,” virginity tests, and physical abuse of female protesters and prisoners by military and security forces were widespread (Hafez 2014; Seikaly 2013; Tadros 2013). Beyond protest settings, violence is a marked feature of women’s prison experiences, in which rape, or the threat of it, is one of numerous violations women suffer at the hands of prison officials. Such violence includes a lack of proper health care for women’s gynecological needs, forced disrobement, attempted or threatened killing of pregnant prisoners’ babies, or having babies taken away from female prisoners after being born in prison (Booth 1987, 37). An important feature of the private-public divide is the way it normalizes space and SGBV as particular heterosexual phenomena (Epstein 1997; Hubbard 2001). The gendered nature of space is ordered and naturalized around the binary sexual pairing of women and men, which is reinforced through social and legal regulations that censure those who transgress accepted norms of gender and sexuality (Hubbard

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2001, 54). A growing body of literature has begun to show how this ordering of space excludes those who do not fit within heteronormative standards. Violence against LGBT people, whether in private or public, is either ignored or viewed as part and parcel of the maintenance of the heteronormative order. For example, Epstein (1997) argues that street sexual harassment is both an expression of patriarchal, heterosexual gender relations and a means to reproduce the heterosexual order through violence targeting homosexual men that reminds them what manhood or masculinity is supposed to mean. Sexual violence in public space, whether part of the social milieu of the street or undertaken by state entities during periods of political conflict, is intricately linked to that in the private space, both of which are underpinned by the same system of patriarchal control. Public and private space is “heterogeneous,” where space itself may be both private and public at the same time and “subject to various territorializing and deterritorializing processes” (Duncan 1996, 129). The lack of legal prescriptions to combat it in either space reverberates throughout the sociopolitical system as a whole. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Culture, and Religion Sexual and gender-based violence is variously and contentiously understood across sociocultural contexts. Many often invoke “culture” to counter the labeling of certain practices as violent or as violations of human and women’s rights. This is rooted in the notion of cultural relativism, which posits that the practices of each culture should be understood through the lens of its own long-held norms rather than those of other (usually Western) cultures, thus denying that there can be any valid, external critique of cultural practice (Mayer 1995). Here, culture has become a battleground, so to speak, in the global to local struggle over women’s rights and in challenges to universalist notions of rights as encoded in various quasi-legal transnational instruments, such as CEDAW and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Abu Lughod 2002; Merry 2006). In the MENA, most states have lodged reservations to a range of CEDAW articles, such as those on a woman’s right to confer nationality to her children and her right to equality with men in marriage, divorce, and residence. Many of these reservations are predicated on a conflict between the CEDAW articles and sharia or locally established family codes, which are often based in sharia (Brandt and Kaplan 1995– 1996; Hajjar 2004). The universalist-relativist divide is most prevalently


Angie Abdelmonem

centered on women and women’s bodies, upon which some notion of (authentic and religiously governed) local identity often rests. Relativist notions of culture, however, problematically assume that culture is a bounded, locally specific, and unchanging practice (Donnelly 1984, 2007). Merry (2006, 10–14) highlights the complexity of the culture concept, which has come to stand for heritage, tradition, or national identity, usually with respect to developing countries. In other words, the relativist position presupposes developing countries have unique and discrete cultures that cannot (or should not) be changed by Western practices. Yet, anthropologists have long questioned the theoretical usefulness of the notion of cultural relativism, noting that cultures are constantly changing and unbounded and that cross-cultural interactions around the world have a long history (Merry 2003). Existing cultures are not static and are the product of this history of interactions. In this way, arguments against universalist or transnational notions of rights rest on tenuous ground, as Donnelly argues that universal rights “may take the form of a large common core with relatively few differences ‘around the edges’” (1984, 409). Activists and scholars argue that in order to combat sexual and gender-based violence, changes are necessary in all societies; discriminatory cultural practices that allow women, men, or LGBT people to continue to suffer forms of violence should not be preserved. Forms of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the MENA Sexual and gender-based violence is not specific to any particular culture, meaning violence cannot be reduced to being a cultural practice. Having said this, culture, as part of the social, economic, and political milieu of a place, plays a role in how violence—and its solutions—might unfold (Merry 2009). For example, while domestic violence exists across many cultures, the way families, communities, and the law either reproduce or combat the problem varies by context. The argument that some forms of violence might be rooted in cultural practice elides the congruence between forms of violence across contexts. In India, Narayan (1997) argues the ascription of dowry murders as a particularly Indian or Hindu problem ignores how it is part of a pattern of domestic violence. Honor killings in the MENA may be viewed in a similar fashion, as a form of domestic violence with a unique set of social, economic, and political implications given the history and context within which they occur (Aujla and Gill 2014). Female genital mutilation/circumcision is another practice rooted in African countries, yet forms of genital modification are prevalent in many parts of the world, often in ways that are

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wrapped up in patriarchal control of the female body (Goodman 2011). This section covers some forms of SGBV visible in the MENA, providing only brief summaries that do not do justice to the complex arrangements of social, economic, and political factors around such violence. Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision

Female genital mutilation or circumcision (FGM/C) is a term used to describe a customary practice of genital cutting that affects at least 200 million women and girls across parts of northern, eastern, and central Africa and limited areas in the Middle East (UNICEF 2016b). The UN has identified four types of FGM/C:

• Type I includes the partial or full removal of the clitoris and prepuce, called clitoridectomy. • Type II includes clitoridectomy and the partial or full removal of the labia minora. It may or may not include the removal of some parts of the labia majora. • Type III includes the stitching together of the labia minora and majora to close much of the vaginal opening, with the exception of the urethra for urination. This is often called infibulation, which may or may not include clitoridectomy. • Type IV includes infibulation along with other nonmedical procedures, such as “pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterization” (UNICEF 2016b).

Gynecological, obstetric, urinary, psychological, and marital problems are common among circumcised women, including painful menstruation, difficulties with sexual intercourse, vaginal tearing at childbirth, distressed babies, and anxiety (Elnashar and Abdelhady 2007). No other practice of sexual or gender-based violence is as mired in the question of culture as FGM/C, which many argue is a tradition, ritual, or rite of passage that aids in the continuous renewal of local meanings, but through which patriarchal social relations are solidified (Abusharaf 2006, 9–10; Hayes 1975). Questions of whether circumcision represents a form of violence (mutilation), whether and how it should be eliminated, and who has the right to speak on behalf of circumcised women are highly contentious (see Chapter 6). From the transnational humanitarian perspective, the cutting of female genitalia is part of the widespread process of control over female sexuality and reproduction, through which anxiety over female virginity, chastity (and, therefore, honor), and the paternity of children is assuaged (Boyle 2005). Local women’s perspectives and the contexts in which the practice unfolds are variable


Angie Abdelmonem

but often overlooked by those who see it simply as a form of violence against women (Abusharaf 2001, 117). The practice is frequently associated with Muslim societies or is viewed as an Islamic practice, though activists and scholars emphasize it crosscuts religion and that women in most Muslim countries are not circumcised (Abusharaf 2006). Rather, they situate the practice as predominantly African, where it is equally prevalent among Christian and Jewish communities. Recent data published by UNICEF show the practice exists in thirty countries, with varying degrees of prevalence (UNICEF 2016b). In the MENA, the countries in which the practice is most prominent include Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq. According to UNICEF data, prevalence rates are 87 percent in Egypt and Sudan, 19 percent in Yemen, and 8 percent in Iraq for women and girls between the ages of fifteen and fortynine. A detailed analysis provided in the 2014 Egypt Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) puts this number as high as 92 percent for women as a whole in Egypt, though prevalence varies by age group and is higher among older women. Women living in urban areas are slightly less likely than those in rural areas to circumcise their daughters. Among urban Egyptian women as a group, 86.3 percent reported they were circumcised. For rural women, 95.4 percent reported being circumcised (EDHS 2014, 186). EDHS data show also that the continuation of the practice correlates with a mother’s wealth and education level. Of women in the highest wealth quintile, 26.4 percent reported they intended to circumcise their daughters aged newborn to nineteen years, compared with 75.9 percent of mothers in the lowest quintile. Similar trends are visible among mothers who completed secondary or higher education (42.5 percent intend to circumcise their daughters) and mothers with no education (74.4 percent say they will circumcise their daughters). Early/Child Marriage

Early marriage, also referred to as child marriage, is a customary practice that involves the marriage of girls or boys under the age of eighteen, though young girls are disproportionately affected by the practice. Often, young girls are forced into or do not consent to such marriages. Only recently has early marriage been viewed as a human rights violation, standing in distinction to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and CEDAW. The CRC sets the age of majority at eighteen and enjoins states to prohibit any action that threatens the health of children, while CEDAW states that individuals should have equal right to consent to marriage (Ouis 2009; UNICEF 2008). Globally, more than 700 million women and 156 million men living today were married prior to the age of eighteen, and, of this number, 35 million (5 percent) of these marriages took

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place within the MENA (UNICEF 2014, 2). This is based on the number of marriages of children under eighteen reported by Algeria (3 percent), Egypt (17 percent), Iran (17 percent), Iraq (24 percent), Jordan (8 percent), Lebanon (6 percent), Morocco (16 percent), Palestine (15 percent), Qatar (4 percent), Syria (13 percent), Tunisia (2 percent), Turkey (15 percent), and Yemen (32 percent). However, the study indicates the MENA region shows the fastest rate of decline for early marriage, falling from 35 percent of total marriages in the region in 1985 to less than 20 percent in 2010. Poverty and lack of education are key factors driving early marriage. Nour (2009) highlights how most child marriages take place among the poor, given the high cost of rearing children. “Girls are costly to feed, clothe, and educate and they eventually leave the household. Marriage brings a dowry to the bride’s family. The younger the girl, the higher the dowry” (Nour 2009, 53). A 2013 UNICEF study shows a stark difference in rates of early marriage for those in different wealth categories. Those in the richest quintile show the lowest rate of early marriage, which is just over 10 percent, compared with 35 percent for the poorest quintile in the MENA (UNICEF 2014, 3). There is a widespread perception in the MENA that marriage provides financial security for women (Ouis 2009), and families seek to improve their daughters’ economic situations by marrying them off earlier. Conflict and war additionally play an important role in reproducing early marriage, given the loss of resources and the potential threat to women’s bodily integrity (Save the Children 2014). In such situations, many families view marriage as a means of protecting young daughters. Yet, early marriage is also imbricated with child trafficking. A BBC article highlights the trade in Syrian brides living in Jordanian refugee camps, with men from Persian Gulf countries paying $2,000 to $10,000 for girls as young as thirteen (BBC News 2014). A complication with early marriage is early pregnancy. Young girls are twice as likely as older women to die from pregnancy, though girls between ten and fourteen are four times more likely to die (Ouis 2009, 462; Nour 2009). Moreover, infants born to young mothers are more likely to be stillborn or to die after birth than those born to older mothers (Save the Children 2014). A UNICEF (2008) study on maternal health additionally indicates adolescent girls are more susceptible to pregnancyrelated complications, such as anemia, as well as abuse, exploitation, and mental health–related problems. Honor Killings and Honor-Based Violence

Honor killings and other forms of honor-based violence occur around the perceived loss to or compromise of an individual’s honor, usually at the hands of family members. Scholars note the imbrication of honor


Angie Abdelmonem

killings with patriarchal society. Here, the honor of the family typically rests on female bodies, in which female sexuality is carefully guarded to prevent the loss of honor and where lost honor is restored through violence and acts designed to discipline (Ghanim 2009; Kulczycki and Windle 2011). The prevalence of honor killings or honor-based violence is difficult to estimate, largely because it is often not labeled as such and it usually overlaps with other forms of SGBV (Chesler 2010). A UN Population Fund report estimates that 5,000 women globally are killed each year in the name of honor (UNFPA 2000). While any individual may be the victim of an honor killing, Chesler (2010) claims 90 to 95 percent of victims are women. There are widespread perceptions that honor killings and honor-based violence afflict primarily Muslim, Arab, or MENA societies. However, as with all forms of SGBV, its prevalence crosscuts cultures and religions. The Honor-Based Violence Awareness Network, an online resource website organized by activists and scholars, indicates the unreliability of actual numbers but highlights the prevalence of such violence is high in places like India, Pakistan, and countries in the MENA. From a legal standpoint, many MENA countries maintain penal code articles that offer lenience to men who commit honor killings of wives or female relatives if they are found to have committed adultery or engaged in sexual relations with someone deemed “unlawful” to them (Abu-Odeh 2011, 4–7). Accordingly, legal provisions allow for either a reduction in or exemption from punishment for men who commit murder in cases of adultery, which Abu-Odeh (2011) says is equally visible in Turkish and many European penal codes as well. Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

Domestic abuse, also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), is defined as physical and psychological violence that occurs between individuals “related through intimacy, blood or law” within the private sphere (Coomaraswamy 1996). Coomaraswamy (1996) notes domestic violence is a gendered crime, usually directed at women by men. However, the term IPV increasingly recognizes that intimate violence occurs not only between heterosexual but also nonheterosexual partners. Globally and in the MENA, IPV is not well understood. A recent World Health Organization study found prevalence rates of IPV of 37 percent for only five MENA countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine (WHO 2013). In an analysis of twelve peer-reviewed studies of IPV in the MENA, Boy and Kulczycki (2008) found a range of prevalence rates from 12 percent for Israel to 65 percent for Turkey. They note the only national-level study on IPV was conducted in Egypt, in which 34

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percent of ever-married women between the ages of fifteen and fortynine reported being beaten by a partner (Boy and Kulczycki 2008, 55). A separate study by Al-Nsour, Khawaja, and Al-Kayyali (2009) shows rates as high as 87 percent in Jordan, for varying forms of IPV, most prevalently for emotional abuse. Both men and women in the MENA often do not see hitting or beating a woman as a form of violence unless it exceeds some tacitly understood standard of being “measured and infrequent,” as discussed by Ghannam (2013) in her study on Egyptian masculinity. She highlights how violence within families may be viewed as legitimate and as a means for men to show their dominance over wives and female family members (Ghannam 2013, 113–116). This is born out in other studies. Al-Nsour, Khawaja, and Al-Kayyali (2009) indicate that a third of the 356 Jordanian women in their survey approved of or justified the abuse they suffered as an acceptable form of discipline. A more detailed study from Egypt shows half of more than 5,600 women sampled (drawn from the 2005 Egyptian Demographic Health Study) agreed that abuse was justified for at least one reason, with a quarter agreeing for at least four to five reasons (Yount and Li 2009). The five reasons listed in the survey were neglecting children, going out without telling a partner, arguing with a partner, refusing sex, and burning food (Yount and Li 2009, 1133). Rape

Rape is variably defined across cultures, often in problematic ways. A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime notes many countries maintain legal definitions of rape as sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, which ignores the rape of men and how consent may be a highly ambiguous factor in rape cases (UNODC 2008). Scholars note rape is a tool to compromise women’s honor, the honor of their families, and, by extension, the honor of their nation (Haeri 1999). Rape laws in the MENA exemplify how social norms of familial honor rely on the maintenance of women’s perceived purity, where the loss of purity is handled in ways that negatively impact women. For example, Jordan’s penal code Article 308 of 1960 allows men who rape women to escape prosecution if they marry their victim in what is referred to as the marriage “loophole” (HRW 2015b; Warrick 2005). Similar legal loopholes are visible in many other MENA countries, including Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, and Bahrain. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, either imprison rape victims or subject them to physical punishments, such as lashings (CNN 2013, 2016; Middle East Monitor 2015). In Egypt, terminologies used in the penal code to designate rape and


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physical assault draw on notions of honor, specifically the use of the term htk’ird, meaning “indecent assault,” in Article 268. Crimes violating the honor of women, who are the ʿirḍ (honor) of their families, are punished with anywhere from three years to life in prison or even the death penalty depending on the age of the victim and her relationship to her victimizer; yet women are often reluctant to speak up for fear of double victimization by law enforcement officials (FIDH 2014). For the MENA, there is a dearth of statistical data to define the prevalence, contexts, and demographics of rape or how it overlaps with other forms of SGBV. However, a number of reports highlight the use of rape as a systematic tool of conflict and war. In 2015, HRW interviewed doctors, officials, and service providers in Iraq who reported ISIS fighters had taken hundreds of minority Yezidi women (updated to 1,800 in 2016) into captivity (HRW 2015a, 2016). One doctor who examined more than a hundred female Yezidi escapees said seventy of them had been raped, some as young as twelve years old. The New York Times reports rape is part of ISIS’s “radical theology” and a tool to recruit men into the ranks (Callimachi 2015). During the Arab Spring, rape was also a tactic utilized by state actors during protest situations to humiliate and silence female protesters and undercut their respectability as a means of undermining protest itself (Middle East Eye 2015). In conflict situations, rape serves as a means by which to conquer, intimidate, or destroy a people through the bodies of women (Farwell 2004). Conclusion Discussions of sexual and gender-based violence in the Middle East and North Africa cannot be separated from discussions of SGBV that exists globally. Such violence forms part of a larger phenomenon of inequality facing most women and oppressed people, including LGBT communities and even some men, particularly those in subordinate positions. The MENA is not exceptional in terms of prevalence or existence of the problem, though some forms of SGBV are frequently cited as evidence of a cultural problem of violence endemic to the region (Ghanim 2009, 4). Social, economic, and political arrangements play a role in how violence may unfold in the MENA. Certainly, patriarchy infuses many of the institutional and noninstitutional structures in the region that are predicated on gendered differences, which may lead to violence. Yet, it is also within these structures that solutions to the problem of SGBV may be found, requiring commitments from both state and society to facilitate change and recognize the right of bodily integrity and freedom for all individuals.

6 Female Circumcision J. Michael Ryan

Female circumcision, also called female genital cutting or female genital mutilation,1 has become one of the most contentious issues in global politics. More than simply a political issue, it has become a moral crusade, a lightning rod for discussions of ethnocentrism and imperial policy pushing, and a debate whose outcome affects the lives of millions of the world’s most vulnerable peoples. As ShellDuncan and Hernlund (2000, 1) have noted, “A reclassification has taken place: the local has become a global concern, ‘female circumcision’ has become ‘female genital mutilation’ (FGM), and a ‘traditional practice’ has become a ‘human rights violation.’” In this chapter I attempt to present the “realities” of the experiences of female circumcision as well as the various arguments, causes, and consequences of the high-profile debates surrounding such practices.2 I use the term female circumcision (FC) as opposed to female genital cutting (FGC) or female genital mutilation (FGM). Although most major international organizations, as well as many state and local governments, prefer the term FGM, there is clearly a loaded connotation to the word mutilation that not only misrepresents the experience of many who have undergone the procedure but also makes a nuanced, nonbiased discussion of the practice impossible. Further, the term FGC is also not fully representative of those who have undergone the practice as not all have necessarily had their genitals cut (cauterization, sewing, and increasingly pricking are also sometimes employed techniques). Further, Elijah (1996, 13) has noted that the word mutilation has been criticized by some women’s groups in Africa because it is “thought to 93


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imply excessive judgment by outsiders and insensitivity toward individuals who have undergone the procedure.” Thus, female circumcision will be used to not only avoid the moral implications of terminology but also to attempt to better capture the full range of experiences represented by such terminology. The point, to paraphrase Gruenbaum (2001), will be to write as an analyst rather than an activist. It is worth noting that debates around terminology exist primarily in “imperial languages,” notably English, and that the connotation in many local languages is far less damning of the practice. For example, in Arabic, the procedure is known as “tahara,” or cleanliness; in the Bambara language of Mali it is known as “bolokoli,” or washing your hands; and in the Igbo language spoken mostly in Eastern Nigeria, it is known as “isa aru,” or having your bath. Even in English the terminology has slowly taken on a harsher connotation with the use of “mutilation” becoming more prevalent since the 1970s, most notably with the seminal publication of The Hosken Report: Genital and Sexual Mutilation of Females (Hosken 1979).3 The World Health Organization (WHO) officially adopted the term “mutilation” in 1991, and in 1997 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) followed suit. Most major Englishspeaking international organizations now use “mutilation” without contest although FGC, FC, or FGM/C (female genital mutilation/cutting) still remain common among some academic researchers and especially so among those working directly with communities where the procedure is practiced. A further point of difficulty in discussing this issue is that it is not one that can be framed as simply “for” or “against.” Although there are many who are strongly and unequivocally “against,” thereby hoping for a full eradication of the practice, there are few who are necessarily advocating “for,” or saying that the practice should be undergone by all women. Instead, the debates are more often framed in terms of arguments surrounding ethnocentrism, imperialist imposition on local cultures, the continuity of traditional practices, and the universality of human rights. In many ways, for some engaged in the debate, the issue has become less about female circumcision per se and more about these latter arguments loosely framed as questions of individual and cultural autonomy. As Gruenbaum and Wirtz (2015, 1) note, “The female genital cutting (FGC) debates speak directly to tensions between concepts of universal human rights and cultural relativity.” In this chapter I neither attempt to defend nor condemn the practice of female circumcision. Instead my goal is to present a critical analysis of the practice citing both sides of the debate (in fact, the debate is quite

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a bit more nuanced than simply for or against). As “female circumcision” should more properly be referred to as “types of female circumcision,” I begin by discussing the types of FC, at least as classified by the WHO. I then turn to an overview of the practice itself, including where it is predominately performed. Next I examine the origins of the debate surrounding FC, including attention to ideas that it is rooted in cultural imperialism or excessive moral relativism. This is followed by a discussion of the consequences and complications of the procedure and individual and community motivations for engaging in the practice, with particular attention to the (non)relationship of FC to Islam. I conclude the chapter with a discussion of efforts to eradicate FGM as well as alternative proposed approaches to its elimination, and finally some thoughts on recent trends and the potential future of the practice as well as the debate surrounding it. A Medical Typology: Understanding the Nuances of Female Circumcision The most important first step in understanding FC is to understand that the term itself—female circumcision—is actually an umbrella term used to represent a variety of practices that involve widely different levels of procedure, potential harm, and implications. Unlike “male circumcision,” which implies a fairly standard procedure wherever the term/practice is used, “female circumcision” is a bit more of a misnomer with less analytic or medical clarity. That said, the WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA issued a joint statement in 1997 defining FGM as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons” (WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA 1997, 3). Presenting a slightly different tone, Shell-Duncan and Hernlund (2000, 3) define female circumcision as “a range of practices involving the complete or partial removal or alteration of the external genitalia for nonmedical reasons,” and Gruenbaum (2001, 2) defines it as “one term used for the cutting and removal of tissues of genitalia of young girls to conform to social expectations.” Whatever definition one chooses, to speak of female circumcision in any meaningful way, one must begin by recognizing the nuances of the practices this single term is meant to represent. The WHO has recognized at least four primary types of female genital mutilation (their preferred term). Type I, often referred to as “sunna” (Arabic for “tradition” or “duty”), is a type of clitoridectomy


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that involves the removal of the clitoral hood. Type II, often referred to as excision, involves partial or complete removal of the inner labia, often also removing the clitoris, and sometimes also a part of the outer labia. Some researchers have noted the difficulty in clearly delineating these two types, and so they are sometimes lumped together in survey research (Myers et al. 1985). Type III, often referred to as infibulation or pharaonic circumcision, involves the removal of the clitoris, as well as the inner and outer labia, and also a sewing shut of the vaginal opening leaving space only for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. It is also sometimes the case that after childbirth, a reinfibulation is conducted to sew the vaginal opening nearly shut again. Type IV is a catch-all category that includes “all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes,” which might include pricking, piercing, scraping, or other forms of less invasive, less permanent procedures. This latter type has sometimes been promoted as an intermediary step to the elimination of FC as it is generally safer for the woman; has few, if any, long-term repercussions; and yet still allows for the continuance of a traditional practice (more on this below). It should be noted that this typology is imposed by “outsiders.” As Gruenbaum (2001, 3) has noted, “the variety of operations defy easy categorization, and the descriptive terminologies that are comparative—generated from outside the frame of meaning of those who do them, to aid medical descriptions for example—cannot be expected to reflect categorizations that are meaningful from any specific cultural perspective.” UNICEF has estimated that as of 2016, more than 200 million girls and women have been circumcised around the world today—including in twenty-seven countries in Africa plus Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Yemen—with some 2 million more undergoing the procedure every year (UNICEF 2016b). It is worth noting that the procedure was also undertaken in the UK and United States as late as the 1940s, largely to control and “treat” excessive masturbation and “hysteria” in women and mental patients (Ehrenreich and English 1973). The highest concentrations of girls aged fifteen to forty-nine who have undergone the procedure can be found in Somalia (98 percent), Guinea (97 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), and Sierra Leone (90 percent) (UNICEF 2016b). Surveys have found (somewhat controversial) evidence that the practice is more common in rural areas, among the lower social classes, and among women whose mothers had lower levels of education. In Somalia and Sudan, however, the situation is somewhat reversed with higher levels of education, especially for the mother, accompanying a rise in prevalence (UNICEF 2014).

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The practice is typically done somewhere between birth and fifteen years of age, most typically between five and fifteen years, although some cultures, such as the Kamba peoples in Kenya, circumcise girls as late as age sixteen, and others, though less commonly, as late as adulthood. The practice is typically tied to particular ethnic/cultural groups (UNICEF 2014), although there is some evidence that the geographic location of the ethnic/cultural group is a factor (most notably that those born and living in Western countries tend to have lower rates). The types of FC are not universally distributed, with higher concentrations of Type III found in Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan, and higher concentrations of Type IV in Indonesia. It is difficult to get solid estimates as to how many women have undergone each type of circumcision. Estimates often rely on reports from medical facilities, although many women do not go to such facilities to undergo the procedure. Other estimates rely on survey research, which brings with it a host of other issues including recall error (especially prominent since many had the procedure done when they were young), misunderstanding of terminology (especially among populations where they have received little education as to their own bodies), response bias (especially in the form of attempting to give answers they believe the surveyor wants to hear), and fear of legal sanctions (especially in countries where the practice is currently illegal). That said, it is assumed that Types I and II are the most common and that Type IV is the fastest growing. And although by far the most sensationalized in the media, according to UNFPA, as of 2010, only 20 percent of women who have undergone FC have undergone Type III, primarily in Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia. To note the controversy in accurately obtaining such estimates, Johansen (2015) puts that number even lower, citing that Type III constitutes only around 10 percent of all procedures. Local Origins of a Global Debate The origins of the practice of female circumcision are difficult to trace (Johnsdotter 2012; see Shell-Duncan and Hernlund 2000 for an overview of origin theories). It certainly predated Islam (see more on the relationship between the practice and Islam below), but the where, why, and when of its inception are still something of a debate and mystery among scholars. Some have argued that it began with the pharaonic Egyptians dating back some 4,000 years (Knight 2001), others claim it began with the Meroite civilization dating back almost 3,000 years (Mackie 2000), and still others rely on evidence from Greek travelers,


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largely to Egypt, citing the occurrence at least 2,000 years ago. In contrast to the uncertainties regarding the origins of the practice, it is somewhat easier to trace the origins of the contemporary movement against the practice and the publications, conferences, and events that have brought it so far into the global spotlight. The first widely recognized campaign against FC—not imposed by an imperial power—began in Egypt in the 1920s when the Egyptian Doctors’ Society called for a ban on the practice. Later, in 1972, Egyptian physician and feminist Nawal El Saadawi criticized the practice in her book Women and Sex. The criticism cost El Saadawi her job as director general of public health but did help bring increased attention to the issue. Other notable African women involved in bringing the issue to the attention of a wider public included Awa Thiam (1978) in Senegal, Olayinke Koso-Thomas (1987) in Sierra Leone, and Awa Keita in Mali (Turritin 1993). In 1975, Rose Oldfield Hayes published an article in American Ethnologist in which she referred to the procedure as “female genital mutilation” and helped to bring the matter to the attention of a wider (i.e., Western) audience. Perhaps the most significant event marking the contemporary origins of the FC debate was the 1979 publication of The Hosken Report: Genital and Sexual Mutilation of Females. Hosken described the practice as a “training ground for male violence” and further accused females supportive of the practice of “participating in the destruction of their own kind” (1979, 5). The harsh condemnations and unapologetic language used by Hosken helped propel the issue to an even wider global audience but at the same time caused a rift between many Western feminists and many African feminists who saw Hosken’s report as an attack on them and their culture and as another form of cultural imperialism. As Gruenbaum (2001, 22) has noted, “hers was a take-no-prisoners approach that justified even forceful external interference.” Since Hosken’s report, a growing list of national and international organizations began denouncing the practice. In 1982, the WHO issued a statement declaring it unethical for female genital cutting (their preferred term at the time) to be performed by any health official in any health establishment (WHO 1982).4 In 1994, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics passed a resolution calling on doctors to refuse to perform female genital mutilation (their preferred term). In 1993, the United Nations included FGM in their Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (UN Documents 1993) and since 2003 has sponsored an International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation every February 6. In 2003, the African Union passed the Maputo Protocol on the rights of women calling for

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an end to FGM. As of 2015, at least twenty-three of the twenty-seven countries where the practice is most heavily concentrated had passed some sort of a restriction, if not an outright ban, on FGM. Additionally, as of 2013, at least thirty-three countries outside Africa and the Middle East have passed legislation banning FGM (starting with Sweden in 1982, which was the first Western country to do so). Cultural Imperialism or Excessive Moral Relativism?

There are those who argue that anti-FGM campaigns are simply a form of colonialism and a further attempt by the West to control women’s bodies, specifically African women’s bodies (Nnaemeka 2005; Tamale 2011). As Gunning (1991, 213) has argued, “articulations of concern over the contemporary practice of genital surgery in third world nations are often perceived as only thinly disguised expressions of racial and cultural superiority.” Further, those who support the practice are often accused of having a false consciousness and being unaware of what is best for their bodies and cultures (Ahmadu 2007). Those who argue against the zero-tolerance campaigns imposed by most major international organizations are accused of having succumbed to extreme moral relativism and a lack of defense for universal human rights (Silverman 2004). On the contrary, those opposing such rigid anti-FGM campaigns are not always themselves in support of the practice. Rather, they are opposed to outside interference in bringing cultural change, instead arguing that practices need to be understood within the context of their own cultures. There are even those who strongly oppose FC but still cite that many of the campaigns against the practice are rooted in Western ethnocentricism and cultural imperialism (Gunning 1991; Oba 2008). The issue for many in this camp is not necessarily to defend FC but rather to defend a culture and a woman’s right to self-determination while simultaneously defending against colonial imperialist politics and the imposition of universal (i.e., Western) gender and cultural standards. There are also some interesting debates comparing FC to other procedures done on women’s bodies, largely in the West, that do not serve even religious, cultural, or traditional rationales (Conroy 2006; Johnsdotter and Essén 2010). Fadwa El Guindi (2007), for example, has argued that breast enhancement is done for male sexual pleasure. Indeed, there are no major international organizations who condemn the often risky practices of cosmetic surgery done for purely aesthetic reasons, but they all condemn FGM as a barbaric practice tied to women’s sexuality. Arguments could be made that when physical alterations are

100 J. Michael Ryan done to women’s bodies for the pleasure of Western men, little has been said, but when they are done to the “barbaric other,” they are worthy of fire and brimstone. In addition to comparisons to other procedures done on female bodies, there are those who also raise comparisons to the surgical interventions done on intersex children as well as comparisons to male circumcision. In fact, in almost all societies where girls are circumcised, so are boys (Johnsdotter 2015), and yet there are no laws protecting males from circumcision (Earp 2016). This is despite the fact that there are also significant potential health risks to males who undergo circumcision (Darby 2016; Earp 2016). Some have questioned why the WHO and the UN do not also investigate the kinds of genital-altering practices that are conducted against males, both as infants and as adults, given the potential harm that can come of said practice. Darby and Svoboda (2007) and Svoboda and Darby (2008), for example, have proposed a typology of male circumcision to complement the one on FC devised by the WHO. Of course, there are multiple reasons why it is often considered unacceptable to compare FC and male circumcision: those in power (i.e., the West and specifically the United States) are places where male circumcision is common practice; the practice of FC is often conflated with larger battles regarding patriarchy, whereas male circumcision is not embroiled in such battles; and, as Earp (2016) has noted, when the WHO does research on FC, it is looking for negative consequences, whereas when it does research on male circumcision, it is looking for benefits. This lack of comparability between the sexes regarding circumcision and genital cutting has caused some to cast doubts on the claims of bodily integrity and universal human rights as the true motivations of many international organizations promoting zero-tolerance FGM agendas. Physical, Sexual, and Psychological Ramifications Although many of the leading arguments against FC are rooted in assertions about the bodily and psychological harm it causes, there is arguably limited reliable medical research to either support or deny claims of incidence of harm (Johansen 2015; Obermeyer 1999; Reisel and Creighton 2015; Shell-Duncan 2001; Shell-Duncan, Obiero, and Muruli 2000). Many of the reasons for this are similar to those stated above related to difficulties in assessing incidence, most notably that as many respondents had the procedure done at a very early age, there is limited reliability in their recall (if there is recall at all), especially of short-term symptoms suffered. Lightfoot-Klein (1989) has also raised

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an interesting point that respondents might report no physical issues even where outsiders might indicate that they are present. She cites the story of an infibulated woman who reported not having any difficulty urinating although it took her fifteen minutes to empty her bladder. Among the women of her tribe, this was common practice and so she did not see it as a difficulty. There are several other important factors that can heavily influence the likelihood and severity of complications, including whether the procedure was done in a medical facility, the skill/training of the practitioner performing the procedure, whether proper anesthetics and antibiotics were administered, the cleanliness of the equipment used as well as the location where the procedure was undergone, and the age of the girl at the time of the procedure, among others. Another issue in properly assessing the complications of underdoing FC is that it is absolutely imperative that a distinction be made between which type of FC was undertaken (Shell-Duncan 2001; Shell-Duncan, Obiero, and Muruli 2000; Obermeyer 1999). The complications for Type IV are arguably far more limited than those of Type III, and it is important not to laden all types of FC with the complications primarily associated with a single type. As Obermeyer (1999, 91) has noted, “It is rarely pointed out that the frequency and severity of complications are a function of the extent and circumstances of the operation and it is not usually recognized that much of [our] information comes from studies of the Sudan, where [in contrast to the majority of settings] most women are infibulated.” The above said, there is some limited consensus about the potential complications of FC where most research has focused on the short-term, long-term, and obstetrical consequences. Short-term complications can include shock, infections, severe pain, hemorrhage, swelling, urinary tract problems, and in very rare cases death. Longerterm complications can include difficulties with menstruation, infertility, cysts, and scarring, although these effects are most often seen with the more invasive types of the procedure. Obstetrical concerns can include greater difficulties during childbirth, greater tearing, and an increased risk of infant mortality. According to a 2006 report by the WHO, an additional 10 to 20 of every 1,000 babies die as a result of complications related to FGM. According to Alsibiani and Rouzi (2010, 722), “there have been no proper research studies on the psychological and sexual function of women with FGM due to many factors including negligence, and this lack of information has led to lay speculation.” Gruenbaum (2001, 141) has also noted that “there is little systematic data on the effects of

102 J. Michael Ryan female genital surgeries on sexual response in any of the countries affected.” That said, it is widely reported in the anti-FGM literature that women who undergo the procedure have reduced sexual pleasure, including in the results of the study by Alsibiani and Rouzi themselves. Other studies, however, have contradicted this, showing that post-FC many women still report very high, sometimes even higher, levels of sexual satisfaction (Catania et al. 2007; Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 2010), or at the very least that it has little negative effect on sexual function in most cases (Berg, Dennison, and Fretheim 2010; Obermeyer 2005). There are several issues with the reliability of these findings on both sides. For one, as many of the respondents underwent the procedure before they had an active sex life (it is, after all, often cited as being done to ensure the girl’s chastity until marriage), how would they know what is “reduced”? Further, reporting of sexual pleasure is an inherently difficult thing to measure, but particularly in societies where women’s reporting having experienced pleasure during sex is heavily frowned upon. Equally as difficult to measure are reports of increased sexual pleasure by men with women who have been circumcised. There are a number of factors that can impact sexual pleasure, and the individual effects of a partner’s having undergone FC would be difficult, if not impossible, to delimit from other factors. Further, there are gendered cultural and social expectations that a man would report feeling sexual pleasure with his partner, and in societies where FC is being defended as a traditional practice, men would be more likely to report greater pleasure with women who have been circumcised. The psychological consequences of undergoing FC are also difficult to accurately assess. Some studies have noted that depression, anxiety, and PTSD are common among women who have undergone the procedure (Vloesberg et al. 2012). Some studies have even cited memory problems later in life as a result of undergoing FC (Behrendt and Moritz 2005), and still others have linked it to feelings of humiliation, fear, and inferiority (Utz-Billing and Kentenich 2008). To the contrary of these studies, many other women have reported no psychological consequences, and some have even suggested that the greater psychological harm would have come had the women not been circumcised. It is also difficult to ferret out the effects of the surrounding discourse, both supportive and against, as likely having a strong impact on the psychological consequences of having been circumcised. Accounting, or not, for the type of circumcision undertaken when considering medical complications has produced widely varied outcomes in the analysis of potential harms. The WHO (2016), for example, has stated that all women and girls “living with FGM” have experi-

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enced a “harmful practice.” Additionally, Reisel and Creighton (2015, 48), although acknowledging a general lack of “high quality research” on the topic, have also stated that FGM “is recognized to cause severe short and long term damage to both physical and psychological health.” Wodon, Yedan, and Leye (2017, 708) agree, noting that female genital cutting “has clear negative health impacts.” As opposed to the above, other reviews have found more limited evidence for complications resulting from the procedure. Obermeyer (1999, 92), for example, found that despite the “vast literature on the harmful effects of genital surgeries . . . evidence on complications is very scarce,” and that such complications, when they did exist, “are the exception rather than the rule.” Obiora (1997, 287) took such analysis one step further by delineating between the four types of circumcision but still found “the available data does not implicate mild forms of the practice as dangerous.” One point of agreement among most scholars who have examined the consequences of FC is that further studies are needed to provide more sound medical evidence of the types, frequency, and severity of complications associated with different types of the procedure (ShellDuncan 2001). Those advocating eradication could gain if they could demonstrate the harmful consequences in a more systematic, scientific way, while those arguing for a more moral relativistic or intermediary approach could gain if they could demonstrate that many of the claims of detrimental consequences have been exaggerated. Until such studies are conducted—and in a systematized, scientifically sound way—the debate as to the complications of the various procedures is likely to continue. Continued Motivations for a “Harmful” Practice The motivations for a young girl or woman to undergo FC can be numerous and varied (Johnsdotter 2015). Among other things, adherence to religious practices, desirability for a marriage partner, community pressures, and wishing to undergo a rite of passage are commonly mentioned themes. As with incidence and consequences, motivations can be difficult to assess given the similar issues of recall, desirability in response, community pressures, outside discourses, and, in many cases, because the procedure was undertaken when the girl was presumably too young to give informed consent.5 That said, it is worth further examining some of the more commonly cited motivations to gain a better understanding of why, in spite of legal and international pressures to desist from the practice, so many girls continue to have it done.

104 J. Michael Ryan One common misconception about FC is that it is something that is imposed on women by men. Those who make this assertion claim that it is a practice intended to reinforce patriarchy and control women’s sexuality and reproductive functions (Hosken 1979; Toubia 1993). In fact, however, it is women who are responsible for the procedure, including its continuance, in nearly every setting where it is practiced. There are even instances of more men than women being opposed to the continuation of the practice (Thomas 1996). With this in mind, it is perhaps most accurate to acknowledge that motivations are largely community, rather than individually, based. That is, women find motivation through community support, pressure, or some mixture of the two rather than their own self-inspired reasoning. It is wrong to assume that all women are opposed to FC or that those who are not simply lack education about the topic. One prominent counterexample to this belief is the case of Fuambai Ahmadu. Ahmadu has a PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics and, as an adult, returned to her Kono ethnic group in Sierra Leone in order to undergo a clitoridectomy. She has become a vocal supporter of FC practices, claiming that critics have misunderstood the practice and wildly exaggerated claims of its harm (Ahmadu 2000). She has found support among others who claim that many anti-FGM activists are doing little more than further marginalizing women who have undergone the procedure and silencing those who are in support of it. Perhaps the most commonly cited motivation for FC, especially as reported by those against such a procedure, is to preserve the daughter’s chastity for marriage.6 Women in many communities who practice FC are often seen as the gatekeepers of morality, and the conduct of one’s daughter is often seen as a reflection on the entire family. Further, it is expected that a woman should be a virgin at the time of marriage, and FC is sometimes seen as the best way of preserving this chastity. A study by Abdelshahid and Campbell (2015), for example, found that many Egyptian parents were concerned that if they left their daughter uncircumcised, she would become easily overly sexually aroused through even minor bodily conduct. Thus, circumcision is seen as one way to preserve the sanctity of a woman, especially until, but even after, she has been married to a suitable husband. Davison (1996, 149), in a study of the Gikuyu peoples of Kenya, had a respondent note that a girl refusing circumcision “would not have anybody visiting her home looking for her to marry. But the minute you got circumcised, no one would stand in your way—you were ready to marry.” In cultures where women’s status is tied heavily to their roles as wives and mothers, “we can anticipate that the rules of marriageability will be carefully followed” (Gruenbaum 2001, 45).

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Female circumcision is often seen as a rite of passage and one that brings with it a great deal of joy and celebration. It is a time when the community comes together to celebrate either the event itself or the larger social transition of a young girl into womanhood. For some, circumcision is also a means of purifying the femininity of a girl by removing what is seen as her masculine characteristics (Assaad 1980; Boddy 1989; Inhorn and Buss 1993; Meinardus 1967). The same justification has been given for male circumcision—to remove the male’s femininity. As Assaad (1980, 4) has noted of his research in Egypt, “Excision is practiced to clearly distinguish the sex of the person. A boy is ‘female’ by virtue of his foreskin; a girl is ‘male’ by virtue of her clitoris.” Thus, it is only after circumcision that a girl can truly become a feminine woman. Many who engage in practices of FC also cite the importance of the procedure as a traditional norm, and one that has been a part of their culture for generations. In fact, it is estimated that about one-third of all women living in Africa live in a community or family where FC is a traditional practice (Johansen 2015). For example, among the Maasai peoples of East Africa, elderly women have noted that seeing their children and grandchildren become circumcised is an important part of their psychological well-being (Llewelyn-Davies 1974). This motivation is more often put forward by those defending the practice than it is by those who argue against it, many of whom cite that tradition itself does not warrant continuation. Toubia and Izette (1998, 33), for example, have argued that the harmful effect of FGM “is human behavior, which can change,” and Edgerton (1992, 15) has asserted that FC is the sort of problem that “populations might be said to bring on themselves or by maintaining traditional beliefs that are harmful to people’s health and well-being.” Despite these arguments, FC is indeed a practice that has been around since before many of the world’s major religions, and thus citing cultural continuity is a worthy consideration. Another commonly cited, though controversial, rationale put forward as motivation for FC is that it is tied to religion, most notably Islam. The association of Islam with FC will be discussed more below, but for now the point is whether those who have undergone the procedure themselves cite religion as a motivation. As Von der Osten-Sacken and Uwer (2007, 29) have noted, whether or not religion calls for such a practice, the important thing is that “at the village level, those who commit the practice believe it to be religiously mandated.” Although most research has shown varying degrees of associating the practice with religion among those who have undergone the procedure, UNICEF (2013) reported higher than average levels of association of the practice with religion in Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, and Egypt. Further, there is

106 J. Michael Ryan certainly evidence that in some contexts, women interpret the procedure as specifically Muslim (Boddy 2007; Johnson 2000). That said, Gruenbaum (2001) has argued that much of the research on religious motivations might be difficult to interpret as respondents might not make clear distinctions between religion, tradition, and chastity. There are those who argue that there is some crossover between the understandings of religion, specifically Islam, and other motivations for engaging in FC. As noted above, Gruenbaum (2001) has made a compelling argument that women might not make clear distinctions between religion, notably Islam, and other motivations such as chastity or tradition. Further, Hayford and Trinitapoli, in a study of the practice among practitioners of different religions in Burkina Faso, argue, “Our findings, in particular the positive association between the proportion of Muslim women in a community and the likelihood that mothers in that community will have their daughters circumcised, suggest the importance of a collective rather than individual Muslim identity for the continuation of the practice” (2011, 267). Association with Islam

The association of FC with Islam is persistent in the minds of many non-Muslims in the West. Despite the fact that the practice occurs among a wide variety of religions, and in places outside the Muslim world, while occurring in very low rates among certain populations of Muslims and at the heart of the Muslim world, the myth that FC is somehow an Islamic tradition has managed to perpetuate (Von der Osten-Sacken and Uwer 2007). Hayford and Trinitapoli (2011, 268) have noted that the symbolic meaning of female circumcision “has been tied to religious identity—most commonly Muslim identity—in some countries (e.g., Yount 2004). But the connection is context-specific, and variation in the connection, like variation in female circumcision more generally, is not well understood.” As Abdelshahid and Campbell (2015, 50) have noted, “contrary to popular belief, it [female circumcision] did not originate from Islam but is practiced by Muslims, Jews, Christians and animists across societies.” Despite the fact that incidence of FC in most Gulf countries, arguably the heart of the Muslim world, is comparatively low (the exception being Iraqi Kurdistan where it is around 60 percent), there are many who still insist that it is largely a Muslim practice. For example, Von der OstenSacken and Uwer (2007, 33) make a claim: “That no firsthand medical records are available for Saudi Arabia or from any other countries in that region does not mean that these areas are free of FGM, only that the

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societies are not free enough to permit formal study of societal problems.” While it is true that statistical evidence for the region on this topic is scarce, it is also true that the practice of FC predates Islam and is also practiced by non-Muslims inside, and outside, the Muslim world. Ahmed (1992, 176) has noted that “in Egypt it [clitoridectomy] is as common among Christians as among Muslims.” The debate as to whether FC is religiously mandated continues to rage among Islamic scholars. Islamic legal scholar Sami A. Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh (1994) has cited two instances from the hadith (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) that refer to female circumcision. He notes that the most often mentioned narration reports a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um ‘Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammed asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: “unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it.” Muhammed replied: “Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.”

The second hadith reference cited by Abu Sahlieh quotes Muhammad as saying, “Circumcision is a sunna (tradition) for the men and makruma (honorable deed) for the women.” Despite the above citations from the hadith, there are no direct mentions of female circumcision in the Quran, and scholars continue to debate whether it is mandated, forbidden, or somewhere in between. Sheikh Omer, for example, has argued that “Islam condones the sunna circumcision. . . . What is forbidden in Islam is the pharaonic circumcision” (“Razor’s Edge” 2005). To the contrary, Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad (2000) of the Minaret of Freedom Institute has argued that for Muslims, [clitoridectomy] and infibulation should be considered harâm (prohibited) practices and opposition to it should be part of our ongoing mandate to fight against superstition and oppression. As to the mildest form of female circumcision, the risks to the girl’s future ability to enjoy sexual relations with her husband must place it at best in the category of makrûh (disliked) practices. Since it has neither hygienic nor religious value, there is no justification for Muslims to engage in this painful and potentially harmful practice and it would be best to avoid it completely.

The current position of Al-Azhar University, located in Cairo, Egypt, and widely considered the center of the Islamic legal world, has also been one of denunciation since at least 2006. It is important,

108 J. Michael Ryan however, to not discount the influence of the context and the fact that female circumcision was outlawed entirely in Egypt in 2007 (infibulation had been banned in state-run hospitals since 1959), and since 2016 there have been harsher punishments for those who perform the practice as well as those who transport women to have the practice performed. Thus, while the “official” Islamic legal position, at least of Sunni Muslims who adhere to the mandates of Al-Azhar, is that female circumcision is not allowed, there are still many in the Muslim world who see the practice as favorable, optional, or at the very least not worthy of being banned. Eradication Efforts and Alternative Approaches There have been numerous efforts to eradicate FGM entirely, often in the form of zero-tolerance policies. Tactics have ranged from simply committing to calling the various practices “mutilation,” a term difficult to ethically debate, to making the practice illegal, often with harsh punishments for those found in violation, to declarations calling for doctors and governments to completely eradicate the practice without the possibility for intermediary steps. For example, Wodon, Yedan, and Leye (2017, 716) have claimed that “On the one hand, they need to prevent and protect, but on the other hand they also need to prosecute when needed.” In contrast to such zero-tolerance policies, recent decades have seen a rise in those arguing for the medicalization of the procedure, especially through harm-reduction strategies, as one positive step toward reducing/eliminating complications and/or toward reducing its prevalence. The medicalization of FC would involve steps such as ensuring that practitioners have access to sterile equipment, that only qualified professionals carry out the procedure, that the procedure be done in equipped medical facilities, and that those who are being circumcised have access to qualified medical supervision before, during, and after the procedure. The idea is that while the debate around the ethics of the practice continues, at least women would have access to proper medical conditions in the meantime, thereby reducing the potential and severity of possible complications. The results of medicalization have been shown to be largely effective. Shell-Duncan, for example, found that “excisions performed by traditional circumcisors using sterile razors, anti-tetanus injections, and prophylactic antibiotics are associated with a nearly 70% lower risk of immediate complications, demonstrating that even minimal medical interventions markedly reduce health risks” (2001, 1019).

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The opposition to medicalization has repeatedly insisted that FC is not a medical issue but rather one of human rights. The UN, for example, declared at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 that FGM is a human rights violation, not a medical issue (UNICEF 2014, 8). These activists claim that any intermediary steps are unacceptable as they only prolong continuation of the practice and give justification to its enactment. Dorkenoo and Elworthy (1992, 14), for example, have stated that “the temptation to reduce pain and death by offering the operation in hospitals ‘in the mean time’ must be refused.” Such seemingly extreme positions are common among many anti-FGM activists who insist that the practice must be eradicated, not the potential health consequences ameliorated. One potential compromise that has been put forward is that of symbolic nicking, essentially a form of Type IV circumcision. In symbolic nicking, or symbolic circumcision, only a small nick is made, usually on the clitoral prepuce, to draw a single drop or a very small amount of blood. The idea is that the girl has been symbolically circumcised but no tissue is removed and there is no permanent damage. This measure has been put forward even in the West via the so-called Seattle Compromise, where a hospital in that city defended the procedure provided the girl was properly anesthetized and had given full consent. The measure was blocked, however, by intensive lobbying and a notable public outcry over allowing such a “non-necessary” medical procedure (Coleman 1998; Ostrom 1996; Paulson 1996; Shell-Duncan 2001). Interestingly, the same hospital carries out male circumcision and other “non-necessary” medical procedures on a regular basis (Coleman 1998). As Shell-Duncan (2001, 1019) has noted, “The hypocrisy of a medical establishment that condemns even the mildest forms of FGC while condoning male circumcision and non– medically necessary cosmetic surgery has been pointed out by numerous commentators.” The opposition to medicalization makes many convincing arguments provided one assumes that the ends justify the means (i.e., the full eradication of a millennia-old practice because it presumably represents the oppression of women and carries potential health risks). However, those in the medicalization camp also have compelling arguments insisting that it is important to reduce harm however one can and whatever one’s ethical position. Thus, the medicalization approach insists that “rather than taking a moral stand on the practice (female “circumcision” is immoral and illegal and therefore punishable), the focus is on the degree to which any form of behavior is harmful to the individual or the community” (Shell-Duncan 2001, 1021).

110 J. Michael Ryan The Future of a Local Practice and a Global Debate In 2012, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution 67/146, “intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations” (Bonino 2012). Indeed, there is some evidence that the rate of FC is declining in many countries. Feldman-Jacobs and Clifton (2014), for example, found that the incidence of FC among women aged fifteen to nineteen versus those aged forty-five to forty-nine was 15 percentage points lower in Egypt (96 to 81 percent, respectively), 16 points lower in the Central African Republic (34 to 18 percent), 19 points lower in Ethiopia (81 to 62 percent), 19 points lower in Nigeria (38 to 19 percent), and 26 points lower in Sierra Leone (96 to 70 percent). These numbers seem to indicate fewer circumcisions are taking place among the younger generation, thus implying a downward trend in prevalence. The extent to which these numbers represent accurate depictions or the extent to which they represent respondents’ fear of reporting circumcision in countries where it is illegal, however, remains unclear (Ako and Akweongo 2009; Gemignani and Wodon 2015; Jackson et al. 2003; Wodon, Yedan, and Leye 2017). No doubt, one important step in the future development of the female circumcision debate should be greater inclusion of those who have undergone the practice. At present, many in those communities have been shut out of meaningful conversations as zero-tolerance and eradication efforts have been effected, arguably with a significant amount of Western influence. As the practice is heavily rooted in local culture and tradition, it will be important to better understand the significance of the tradition by building more insider voices into the conversation, and to do so with open ears rather than moral condemnation. As Gruenbaum and Wirtz (2015, 2) have noted, “Indeed, the issue of FGC can only be productively addressed through increasing nuanced research and respectful cross-cultural dialogue.” Ahmadu (2007, 279) has furthered this point, claiming that the debate has become focused “between the legs” of women who have been (or might be) circumcised, “rendering them ‘invisible’ as individuals with their own dynamic histories, cultures, and traditions.” The voices of these women need to be made central to the debate. With the growing number of organizations, resolutions, and individuals opposing what they call female genital mutilation, and especially with zero-tolerance campaigns, one could argue that any “debate” around the practice(s) has seriously evaporated. Indeed, the current focus on eliminating the practice has arguably shifted from one of medical concerns to one of bodily integrity and universal human rights (Shell-

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Duncan 2008), making it largely unconscionable for most individuals to even consider that FC might have a respectable place in society or serve any kind of sociocultural purpose justifying its existence. Ironically, there has also been widespread recognition that we have limited, if any, reliable scientific data as to the consequences of undergoing such a procedure, clear understandings of individuals’ motivations for doing so, or the long-term ramifications of attempting to extinguish the practice. To quote Gruenbaum (2001, 30), “This dilemma [universal moral standards versus a more nuanced cultural and moral relativistic approach] is at the core of the female circumcision controversy. Although many people have achieved strong, clear views, others do not accept their reasoning or have strong views of their own. A fruitful dialogue requires a clearer understanding on all sides, not strongly stated moral judgments.” The goal of this chapter has been to promote such a clearer understanding and fruitful dialogue. Notes 1. It is worth noting that other terms exist to describe this practice, including female genital surgeries, female genital alterations, and nontherapeutic circumcisions. 2. For convenience I use the singular “practice” as well as “procedure” throughout this chapter although I acknowledge that the more proper terminology should probably be “practice(s)” and “procedure(s)” to reflect the plurality of practices and procedures that fall under these terms (which will be addressed later in this chapter). 3. Some have claimed that the adoption of the term mutilation was also done “to establish a clear linguistic distinction from circumcision of boys and men, and to emphasize the gravity and harm of the practice” (Johansen 2015, 3). 4. The WHO had previously taken up this issue in 1959 but had decided at that time that it was not in fact a medical issue. 5. It is worth noting that what qualifies as “consent” is very much culturally based. For example, in many cultures where circumcision is performed, one is not considered an adult until after the procedure, thereby making it impossible to give consent as an adult before the procedure has been performed that makes one an adult capable of giving consent. 6. Gruenbaum (2001, 79) has made an interesting observation, noting that “infibulation is one important means of effecting control over women’s and girls’ sexuality and their virginity prior to marriage, one that is perhaps less restrictive in some ways than the seclusion, segregation, and strict dress codes used in some societies.”

7 Gender and Politics Michaelle Browers

Women’s struggle for full membership and equal political status in the various nation-state communities in the Arab region has often taken the form of “state feminism”—that is, Arab feminists have long sought “the state’s active promotion of women’s rights and attempt[ed] to change existing gender relations” (Al-Ali 2007, 146). Certainly the postindependence “revolutions from above” pursued by republican regimes in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria often contained social welfare provisions that “offered explicit commitment to public equality for women”; undertook “state feminism as a legal, economic and ideological strategy to introduce changes in Egyptian society and its gender relations” (Hatem 1992, 231); and succeeded in bringing about many changes. Yet, much scholarship has been devoted to critically analyzing the downsides and limitations inherent in pursuing feminist goals through the state. Yacoubi has recently noted how state feminism left patriarchy intact in the Tunisian state and thus became embedded in a modernizing and homogenizing discourse that “empowers some women and neglects others,” rendering various subgroups (rural, lower class, religious, and/or “traditional” women) “dominated or excluded” (2016, 260). Further, as Al-Ali has demonstrated in the case of Iraq, “as so often when reforms and changes are imposed from above, they prove fickle and can easily be reverted” (2007, 146). Hatem’s (1992) analysis of Egypt demonstrates both how the diversity-adverse conceptions of women produced by state feminism work to divide women and how such conceptions rendered women particularly vulnerable when the 113

114 Michaelle Browers state began to retreat with the economic and political liberalization schemes of the 1980s. State feminism also involves various patriarchal bargains, where women choose to accommodate some patriarchal norms in exchange for some form of power that can be wrested from the system (Kandiyoti 1988), which essentially involves a shift of power from the patriarchy of the father or husband to the patriarchal state. Concern over the ability of conservative religious forces to take power in democratic elections often pushes women to align with secular authoritarian regimes to avoid policies that curb hard-fought advancements in women’s status and freedoms (Brandt 1999). Recent analysis by Rizzo, Abdel-Latif, and Meyer (2007) of opinion polling research in Arab and non-Arab Muslim societies further complicates the relationship between support for gender equality and support for democracy. They found that “democrats and those advocating for women’s rights were not the same groups in the Arab world” and that, while the majority supported democratic governance, notions of democracy were incomplete and did not extend to various citizenship rights of participation and inclusion, particularly of women (Rizzo, Abdel-Latif, and Meyer 2007, 1164, 1166). As a result, democratization and gender equity seem to exist in tension at both a conceptual and a practical level—which seems to fundamentally complicate attempts to enact reform from above in the Arab region at the same time that the link between authoritarianism and patriarchy has been well established (Inglehart and Norris 2003a). Recent work on the use of electoral quotas as tools to address gender inequality has helped to navigate this tension. Benstead, Jamal, and Lust (2015) have found that perceived incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles is key to explaining women’s underrepresentation in the Middle East and North Africa and beyond. Though, interestingly, Benstead, Jamal, and Lust also found that while the dominant understanding of political leadership was secular and male, religious-appearing female candidates were able to overcome biases at the polls in ways that secular-appearing female candidates could not, due to the former’s ability to gain supporters who would vote based on a religiosity that seemed to mitigate concerns about voting for a woman (2015, 86). While these authors suggest the importance of increasing the number of women and other underrepresented groups in leadership positions to overcome the gap—that is, to expand notions of leadership and of women—here again we see the potential complication of quotas as a way to elect women who will actually represent the interests of women and gender equity. Subsequent work by Benstead (2016) has added more depth to our understanding of the

Gender and Politics


relationship between authoritarianism and gender inequality by demonstrating that it is women’s exclusion from networks in clientelistic, patriarchal contexts that prevents female candidates from winning elections and female deputies from providing services—which, in turn, limits their ability to be seen as effective leaders to be elected. Benstead affirms the need for quotas to improve women’s access to networks and services in authoritarian, clientelistic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa and notes that “on the instrumental, demand side, patriarchal structures exclude women from public space (e.g., employment, politics), giving them fewer resources and influence” (2016, 189). It is that ongoing exclusion from public space—and recent attempts to address that exclusion from the ground up—that is the topic of the remainder of this chapter. Gender, Youth, and Political Activism After the Arab Uprisings Bier understands state feminism “not just as a policy or series of policies, but as a constellation of normalizing discourses, practices, legal measures, and state-building programs aimed at making women into modern political subjects” (2011, 7). As Glenn (2011, 3) notes, “at its most general level, citizenship refers to full membership in the community within which one lives. Membership, in turn, implies certain rights in and reciprocal obligations toward the community.” Turner (1993, 2) clarifies that citizenship is not just a legal status or identity but encompasses a “set of practices (juridical, political, economic and cultural) which define a person as a competent member of society, and which as a consequence shape the flow of resources to persons and social groups.” And as Ronkainen notes, “only when citizenship is studied as . . . practices do the hypothetically associated politics and problems to this status get their meanings and contents” (2011, 248; emphasis in original). Thus, shifting the study of gender and politics from the institutional designation of the state, or from the a priori position of gendered subjects toward the acts, events, and practices through which political subjects are created and interact, can better account for the ways in which gendered political subjectivities are being disrupted and where new possibilities, new ways of claiming rights and imposing obligations are taking place. A citizen’s ability to enjoy and exercise social, economic, civil, and political rights requires not just access to but the ability to marshal public spheres as spaces of engagement. When citizens are denied spheres

116 Michaelle Browers of public engagement, they are constrained in their daily exercise of those citizenship rights, their mobility is threatened, and their participation is curbed—and when they come out to play roles in public, as so many citizens did during the Arab uprisings, the various forms of oppression and violence enacted to deny them access and maneuverability in those spaces threaten their physical well-being and very humanity. Commenting on the Arab uprisings as they were under way, Judith Butler observed the following commonalities in the various instances: Bodies congregate, they move and speak together, and they lay claim to a certain space as public space. Now, it would be easier to say that these demonstrations or, indeed, these movements, are characterized by bodies that come together to make a claim in public space, but that formulation presumes that public space is given, that it is already public, and recognized as such. We miss something of the point of public demonstrations, if we fail to see that the very public character of the space is being disputed and even fought over. (2011, 1)

Have the Arab uprisings that began in late 2010 and led to the overthrow of heads of state in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen challenged the “patriarchal bargains” and “gendered social contracts” commonly identified as central to the failure of women to achieve full and meaningful political equality in the Arab region? Women, particularly young women, played important roles in the uprisings, defying social norms and demanding a different future. Of the fourteen Arab countries measured in both 2010 and 2017 by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, ten saw increases in their score of progress toward closing the gender gap, while four saw decreased progress. Still, a closer look reveals a more complex picture. Tunisia seems to provide some evidence for Moghadam’s proposition that “those countries that have seen advances in women’s participation and rights are the ones most likely to experience a successful democratic transition and consolidation” (2014b, 139). Tunisia, which is the only country to see much in the way of success (albeit partial and tenuous by most measures), was ranked highest among all Arab countries by the World Economic Forum in 2017. This “progress” was in large part driven by its rising score on the Political Empowerment subindex, which reflects growth in women’s share of parliamentary and ministerial positions following the introduction of gender parity measures both in a 2011 law and in the 2014 constitution (World Economic Forum 2017). However, the case of Egypt seems to suggest the resumption of something akin to a patriarchal bargain at the level of political representation, as women’s ability to gain seats in parliament continues to be

Gender and Politics


tied more closely to authoritarian than democratic politics. Women’s representation in the Egyptian parliament has been largely a result of the presence or absence of quotas ever since women became eligible to run for office in 1956. A proportional representation system in place from 1984 to 1987 allowed women to achieve almost 8 percent of parliamentary seats. The reinstatement of a gender quota in 2010 allowed women to win sixty-four (12 percent) parliamentary seats. All quotas were removed for Egypt’s first People’s Assembly election postrevolution in 2012, under Mohamed Morsi’s rule and at a time when many restrictive measures against political parties had been removed, resulting in the creation of over eighty parties spanning a wide political spectrum. Complicating Moghadam’s thesis, in this perhaps most procedurally democratic election in Egypt’s history, women won only 10 of the 508 contested seats. The first parliamentary election under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2016—an election marked by low turnout and election tampering—reinstated a quota and, as a result, elected more women. The 2016 election demonstrates well the way in which translating quota laws into practice cannot be accomplished without good female representation within political parties, since it is there that electoral candidates are chosen and supported. In the 2016 election, women won only 17 of the 420 contested seats, plus the 56 provisional quota seats allocated to women through the closed party lists, and Sisi’s subsequent appointment of 14 more women brought the number to 87 (or 14.9 percent, which still falls below the 18.4 percent average of women in parliament for all Arab states). Further, the lack of power accorded to Egypt’s parliament under the Sisi regime must temper any celebration of even that small advance in women’s representation. The question of whether consolidation of democracy after the Arab uprisings contributes positively to women’s political empowerment is further complicated by countries such as Algeria, whose experience of the Arab Spring was much less transformative than that of either Tunisia or Egypt but has long retained some of the highest levels of political empowerment by World Economic Forum measures. Algerian women’s political participation was highest in the Arab world, with women holding 146 seats in 2012 (31.6 percent) and 119 (25.75 percent) seats in 2017, until it was surpassed by Tunisian women’s higher share of 31.3 percent female representation in parliament since the elections held at the end of 2014. So too, Algeria has long ranked lower than both Tunisia and Egypt on women’s educational and health measures, underscoring the fact that women’s parliamentary representation alone does not ensure substantive changes in the lives of women. All three countries continue to suffer the ill effects of authoritarian governance and political corruption. But it does

118 Michaelle Browers seem clear that women’s activism remains an essential component in holding all governments accountable. This was well displayed in the battle over Tunisia’s postrevolution constitution when Islamists in the Constituent Assembly proposed replacing the term “equality” to describe male-female relations with the words “complementarity” or “partnership,” and women’s rights activists and organizations organized to ensure the word “equality” was maintained. The protests created both opportunities and risks, but, overall, even the promised gains (such as Tunisia’s gender parity law) have yet failed to fully materialize at the level of the state, and the public space for women’s activism—as well as for activism in general—seems to be shrinking rather than expanding in the aftermath. As the editor of a special issue on “Women, Gender and the Arab Spring” notes, the issue of gender equity has been sidelined by some of the very debates to which they should be central: questions of “transitional democracy, constitution drafting, elections and protracted questions of transitional justice” (Khalil 2014b, 131). So too, “gender-sensitive legislations (quotas, personal status codes, justice for female victims of state violence, etc.) have been discussed in ideological ways through the ‘state feminist’ discourses of the previous regimes as well as the governments that rose to power after the Arab Spring” (Khalil 2014b, 131). I argue that we should see the struggle as ongoing and highlight some potentially promising developments in Arab feminist political thought and activism. The remainder of this chapter provides analysis drawn from recent field research in Egypt and Tunisia on the ways feminists remain constrained by patriarchal political agendas and at risk of being instrumentalized to serve the interests of the state elites and/or oppositional actors, but also how they are attempting to combat these challenges. Ultimately, I argue we are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of activists and thinkers who are in many respects wiser to the trappings of patriarchal and authoritarian bargains and to the ways that multiple identities mediate citizenship (intersectionality). As Tunisian activist Aya Chebbi put it, women are “steer[ing] discussion away” from simplistic notions of “identity” that allow both Islamist and secular elites to use women as bargaining chips, toward a “focus on women’s rights as a social and political issue” that integrates “race, class, and imperialism into the debate” (Abu Jaber 2015). In light of the role that the occupation and claiming of spaces played in the uprising, the post–Arab Spring activism on which I focus is aimed at preserving (and, when possible, further expanding) those spaces, remaining cognizant of the fact that “actually existing citizenship” requires attention to both the “practices or acts of citizenship” and the “spaces of citizenship.”

Gender and Politics


The Anti–Sexual Harassment Campaign in Egypt: Bystander Anti-Sexism A 2013 survey conducted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women found that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women reported experiences of sexual harassment and 49.2 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment daily. Women’s citizenship is hindered when access to and mobility within public spaces are hindered by sexual harassment. The formulation of safe public spaces and forms of mobility is a central part of women’s struggle for full and meaningful citizenship. A number of researchers have noted that activism against sexual harassment has expanded in new ways that were unimaginable during the Mubarak years, just as sexual harassment of women in public spaces seems to have increased (Langohr 2015; Skalli 2014). One example that has been well studied is HarassMap, an initiative founded in Cairo in October 2010, a few months prior to the January 25 uprising, to provide an interactive platform for the documentation and mapping of incidents of sexual harassment. The use of anonymous reporting through a crowdsourcing model allows victims of harassment to bypass social and institutional constraints, particularly those involved in engaging formal law enforcement channels that keep so many women from reporting incidents of sexual harassment. Individuals who report receive an automated response that directs them to resources for counseling, self-defense, and legal assistance. HarassMap also trains activists to engage in community outreach. Armed with these data, volunteers go into their own neighborhoods and raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment. Volunteers talk to business owners, police officers, and other individuals who have a visible presence in the community in order to inform them about incidents that occur on their watch and to encourage and guide them to intervening when they witness sexual harassment. HarassMap also dispenses “HarassmentFree Zone” stickers to individuals who pledge to intervene. The stickers can be placed in their window to announce that their business supports the project and to identify the space as a safe haven against harassment. HarassMap activists emphasize that their activism is aimed not at stopping harassers so much as activating bystanders to stand up to sexual harassment as they would stand up to a theft they witness (Abdelmonem and Galán 2017, 158). There is an emerging focus in anti-racism research on “bystander anti-racism,” which Nelson, Dunn, and Paradies define as “action taken by a person or persons (not directly involved as a target or perpetrator)

120 Michaelle Browers to speak out or to seek to engage others in responding (either directly or indirectly, immediately or at a later time) against interpersonal or systemic racism” (2011, 265). In many respects, the approach of HarassMap and other activist groups discussed here involves the enactment of “bystander anti-sexism,” in the sense that much of the focus is on inspiring intervention of some sort—whether through action or speaking out—on the part of those not directly involved as either a target or a perpetrator of sexual harassment. In each of these cases there is evidence of a keen understanding that the personal is political—that is, that the fight against interpersonal sexism is fundamentally connected to the fight against systemic sexism—and that women’s full achievement of political equality requires not just transformation at the level of the state and not just transformation at the level of the family but also the disruption of public habits and habitus. This disruption of public habits and habitus is at the center of another interesting initiative: WenDo Egypt. Established in May 2013, WenDo Egypt centers on a self-defense course that aims not only to train women in how to protect themselves and other women against physical harassment and assault but also to encourage women to verbally and physically occupy public spaces in new ways (Abdelmonem and Galán 2017, 155). The training does not focus on inspiring bystanders to anti-sexism speech and action; instead, it focuses on those against whom sexual harassment is most often perpetrated, seeking to fundamentally transform women’s public comportment in ways that hold the potential to both confront would-be perpetrators and create a public spectacle that forces bystanders to respond. Rather than looking down when walking, ignoring comments, and generally trying to look small and invisible, WenDo trainers coach women to walk with their heads up and with a confident posture, aware of their surroundings— and, if harassed, to look their harasser directly in the eye, raise their voice to send a clear message of “no,” and ask bystanders for help (Abdelmonem and Galán 2017, 160). Research on bystander citizenship has attempted to answer the question of whether such public actions only transform public behavior in the moment of confrontation or whether it can contribute to the transformation of underlying beliefs and social norms by puncturing the perception that there is community support for, or at least social acceptance of, harassment of women. Other similarly conceived initiatives sprang up in the context of protesters when many believed that the sexual assaults on women and men were organized and coordinated by state actors with the aim of silencing opposition (Amnesty International 2013; Langohr 2013). Tadros notes how “the Egyptian authorities, like other authoritarian

Gender and Politics


regimes, have for long deployed sexual violence as an instrument of terror and intimidation against political dissidents, male or female” (2016, 328). It certainly became clear to many protesters that the state security forces could not be trusted to protect protesters from sexual assaults. As a result, a number of citizen-organized initiatives, such as Tahrir Bodyguard and Operation Anti–Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH), emerged to address this need by devising strategies to extract women from mob assaults that were taking place in Tahrir Square after Mubarak’s removal. These groups also used social media and mobile devices; volunteers would pass out cards with hotline numbers and respond in small groups, wearing bright yellow jackets to identify themselves, to places where incidents were reported. An app called Byt2ebed 3alia (“I’m Getting Arrested”) was developed by an Egyptian activist in 2011 to allow individuals to press a button on their phone that would alert contacts the individual had identified as to the time and GPS coordinates of the arrest (Mackenzie 2014). Didd al-Taharrush (Against Harassment) began patrolling the Tal’at Harb area to block men from harassing women in that high-traffic area. Another group, Shuft Taharrush (I Saw Harassment), began patrolling public spaces during the Eid in a similar way. A group called Haraka Basma began monitoring cars reserved for women on each metro train to make sure men were not intruding in that space. All of these groups have expanded their work to include forums and training for women, public transportation workers, and other citizens. According to Abdelmonem and Galán (2017, 155), there was a shift in each from a focus on “raising awareness and improving laws and policies” between 2005 and 2010 to “novel forms of street-level actionoriented initiatives” after the 2011 uprising. Langohr similarly notes a shift in anti-harassment activism post Mubarak away from the statecentered approach to a more grassroots approach: the earlier efforts of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights to fight harassment “focused largely on developing new laws and encouraging greater police presence at major events—a sharp contrast from the direct street intervention of today’s movements” (2015, 132). Other works have noted the way that current initiatives depart from earlier ones not only by virtue of their independence from the state but also by virtue of their youth and the large number of men who have participated (Skalli 2014). Nazra, for example, explicitly defines itself as an organization of “young researchers and activists of both sexes” whose aim is to “let out a younger voice within the Human Rights and Feminist movements in Egypt, opening a door for the participation of a new generation of activists and researchers” (quoted in Khalil 2015, 120). Zaki and Abd

122 Michaelle Browers Alhamid (2014) characterize these anti-harassment groups as “an independent social moment numbering hundreds, if not thousands, of young men and women who have chosen to stand up to violence using extremely diverse methods and tools.” Al-Ali has noted a more general shift in attitudes among this new generation of activists: What is . . . remarkable is how sexual harassment and its counterpart, women’s security and ability to move safely in public spaces and participation in political activities is not anymore perceived to be a diversion from the wider revolutionary struggle for greater equality and social justice, as was initially the case. Nowadays, those parties, groups and individuals who see themselves as holding on to the spirit of the revolution view the fight against harassment as central to their wider demands and visions for a new society. (2014a, 124)

Although there is no shortage of scholarship that has noted the potential problems of roaming citizen vigilantes (Elk and Devereaux 2014), the focus on the responsibility of bystanders may divert attention away from the young, lower-class men that Amar has well demonstrated are often demonized by anti-harassment campaigns in Egypt (2011a, 317). However, Rizzo (2014) has identified a more specifically gendered danger that lies in initiatives that call upon men to take responsibility for protecting women from sexual harassment. While many men who volunteer with anti-harassment groups may operate from an understanding that protecting women from sexual harassment works in tandem with protecting and expanding women’s access to public spaces, other men may interpret this as a call to surveil and assert control over women’s access to public spaces. Certainly, protection discourses tend toward the patriarchal at the level of both the family and the state. As current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has taken up the anti–sexual harassment cause, organizations working on this issue have been required to register as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (subject to the state supervision involved in that process). And there have already been complaints against the anti-harassment women’s police force set up in 2014 during the Eid al-Adha celebrations “for being ineffective against sexual harassers and leading instead to increased policing and detention of their volunteers” (Abdelmonem and Galán 2017, 162; see also Mada Masr 2015). So too, the use of these new techniques in human security governance to map and target public spaces is not without its problems. Amar has noted how anti-harassment efforts often rely on Orientalist tropes about the “predatory sexuality” of the “Arab street,” which resonates with the notion that Egypt needs an authoritarian government to keep its population in order (2011a, 2011b). Grove notes in particular

Gender and Politics


how “HarassMap has almost nothing to say about the role of the Egyptian government and Egyptian security forces indirectly perpetuating a culture of sexual terror among its citizens” (2015, 359). However, to be fair, other groups noted above (including OptAntiSH, which includes many HarassMap staff and volunteers among its founding members) quite clearly did acknowledge and address both (suspected) state orchestration of street violence and their lack of efforts to protect Egyptian citizens from it. Rizzo, Grove, and Amar each point to ways that young, feminist anti-harassment practices and discourses run the risk of inadvertently opening the door to conservative, authoritarian, patriarchal, and even global interventions and invasions, even as they seek the opposite: to expand citizen access to and maneuverability in public spaces. Yet one hopes that the new political consciousness Skalli finds in her interviews with young activists in Egypt continues to guide and inform anti-harassment work: “that they have succeeded in exposing the complicity of political and patriarchal forces in reproducing and condoning sexual harassment before and since the Arab spring” (2014, 244). Street Theater in Tunisia: Intersectionality and the Performance of Politics Around 2009, a group of university graduates in Tunis, many of them majors in theater or the fine arts, began discussing what they might do to bring about change in their society. Since many of the students taking part in the discussion had studied theater, among the projects they began to conceptualize was taking theater to the streets (Kaouech 2016). The result is Fanni Raghman Anni (My Art in Spite of Myself), an independent revolutionary youth and artistic movement based in Tunis that aims to use theater (1) to produce, perform, and diffuse their vision of an equal society without discrimination and marginalization and (2) to train others to understand and defend their rights and to be a force for a positive change in the community through the use of innovative, creative, cultural alternative tactics. The “Who Are We?” section of its website declares that the group has its origins in a shift during the 1990s, when intellectuals decided to no longer participate in the brutally oppressive machine that had stifled the role of youth and culture through the creation of “forbidden culture.” The page identifies this forbidden culture as a “nowhere,” a transitory space where one is forbidden from having a social existence. Although written in rather enigmatic prose, the image drawn evokes the

124 Michaelle Browers idea of the closing of public and civic spaces where one meets others as citizens. This reading is confirmed as the description continues by relating how from December 17, 2010, to January 14, 2011, these transitory spaces were transformed into places that embraced new forms of artistic protest, such as graffiti and public performances, aimed at articulating the desires and aims of youth and other marginalized groups, rehabilitating public space, restoring social relations, and establishing an alternative culture of freedom and creativity. According to Seif Eddine Jlassi, one of the group’s founders, much of the group’s work today is aimed at “protect[ing] our newfound freedom of expression, and promot[ing] new outlets for repressed ideas and thoughts. We want to decolonise Tunisians’ ideas and thoughts” (quoted in Khlifi 2017). Much of the work involves engaging and training young Tunisians in the art of street performance, with particular attention to those from poorer and often neglected interior regions—or, more generally, what the organization refers to as “marginalized groups”— through their camps and workshops and bringing their art to a wider audience. For example, Zamaken is a performance piece they have created that attempts to bring attention to the eclipsing of the Tamazight minority in Tunisia. The group is explicit that their aims are to “create creative spaces” and “develop the talents” of “young people of both sexes.” Like so many contemporary youth movements, their discourse centers on human rights more explicitly than on feminism. At the same time, the group includes a large number of women in its employ and in its performances, and it outlines a number of goals that are explicitly feminist. Jlassi, author of a 2014 report from the group to the Anna Lindh Foundation, one of its funders, identifies the lack of women’s participation in the country’s cultural movement as one of the threats the group attempts to confront and specifies women’s rights and equality as among the values the group sets out to defend. The display of female bodies in the performances, alongside men’s, itself enacts the reclamation of the street as a woman’s space and challenges hegemonic notions of public morality. The performances are also meant to challenge and disrupt social norms and habitus. Fanni Raghman Anni activists often involve bystanders in the performance. Three Points, as the title states, centers on three points: “Point one: No to the death penalty and the execution of intellectuals. Point two: No to extremism. Point three: no to youth suicide.” This piece includes a fifteen-minute performance that lays out certain content: they detail government acts of torture, brutality, and violations of citizens’ rights, as well as citizen despair and suicide.

Gender and Politics


However, bystanders are directly called upon by the performers to adopt three principles in their own lives: “Don’t commit suicide, don’t die out of agony, and live your life” (Voice Project 2015). Rather than just presenting content and seeking commitment to action, Fanni Raghman Anni seeks to directly connect bystanders to—to implicate them in—the performance itself. Bystanders participate by throwing bags of colored liquid at the bodies of the performers at the end of the performance. The performers are often visually jarring: they use body paint and quite often wear tattered clothing or are covered in pieces of cloth. As a result of the latter, the group is often perceived as having too little of their body clothed, leading to charges of “public indecency” and “indecent acts,” and, on occasion, they are physically attacked by audience members. A performance of They Killed Him, a piece developed in response to the 2013 assassination of democratic opposition leader Chokri Belaïd, was met by a group of Salafi leaders who verbally and physically assaulted the performers. Police responded to the incident but proceeded to arrest the nineteen artists rather than their attackers. The Salafi figures later arrived at the police station to press charges. Fifteen artists were charged with public indecency (Slama 2013). Following a local outcry and an international advocacy campaign, charges were dropped (Voice Project 2015). Fanni Raghman Anni’s office was torched in 2013 as well. No one was hurt, but they were forced to move to a new location. According to the literature that explores what makes bystander-oriented activism more or less effective, the most effective bystander action manages to communicate a controversial or even confrontational message without damaging interpersonal relations or inducing defensiveness or backlash from those to whom the message is aimed (Nelson, Dunn, and Paradies 2011, 272). The message conveyed by Fanni Raghman Anni is, in many respects, radical and transgressive. They bring into public streets and squares issues that many would prefer to keep private or sweep under the rug. However, at least one important difference between Three Points and They Killed Him, which might account for the different reception among bystanders, is not just the political message but also the way the latter implicated bystanders in the performance. Much of the rest of the work of Fanni Raghman Anni demonstrates a fundamental cognizance that their activism needs to build relationships and build both content and performance around those relations in order to be effective. Much of Fanni Raghman Anni’s work involves taking targeted groups, usually youth from poor or rural areas who have less access to the arts, and teaching them about both basic political concepts and

126 Michaelle Browers content (human rights, freedom, citizenship, democracy) and how to develop artistic performance pieces. Sometimes these are small, closed endeavors, such as ST’ART: Arts for Local Governance, a ten-day workshop for twenty-five youths that both introduced and trained participants in the basics of local governance and cultural management. Participants developed their own proposals for cultural projects aimed at strengthening local governance, three of which were selected by the group, funded, and implemented. The group runs various camps for youth during school breaks, such as the December 2015 Gantra Camp for Arts and Citizenship, which took place in three rural interior governorates. A longer, mobile project, entitled “My Art for the Sake of My Right,” which was funded by the Arab Institute for Human Rights, involved a six-month caravan that toured various regions of the country that tend to be less frequented by the government. The group spent about three days in each location to hold human rights workshops, panel discussions, and performances. The strategy of meeting Tunisia’s marginalized populations where they are would seem fraught with risks, since so much analysis of the country notes how the neglected peripheries are the sites of political instability and insecurity. Tunisia’s periphery suffers a legacy of decades of underinvestment and neglect, with high levels of poverty and unemployment, regional conflicts, informal and illegal economic networks, and organized crime. Yet, Fanni Raghman Anni’s willingness and ability to work from the ground up create the sorts of relationships upon which their work depends. A seven-month-long project from June to December 2013, entitled Art for Citizenship . . . Citizenship for Art, involved a total of 120 participants from El Ouardeya, Essaida, and other marginalized regions in Tunis around the issue of women’s rights and citizenship. Many of the organizers and activists had ties to the region and made use of door-todoor networking in order to convince parents to allow their children to participate. As is typical of Fanni Raghman Anni’s approach, content workshops were combined with training in various aspects of the visual and performing arts. The young people involved also engaged in various games and exercises, some of which were aimed at aspects of women’s rights; others of which seemed aimed at getting them more comfortable with expressing themselves, more trusting of each other; and many seemed aimed at pure fun. The culminating project was a dance performance developed by the participants. This work, entitled “Essaida,” was then performed by the participants in their home neighborhoods. Fanni Raghman Anni is, in many respects, groundbreaking in its approach to claiming, disrupting, and transforming public spaces through acts of expression, sharing, and exchange and the engagement and impli-

Gender and Politics


cation of bystanders. But they are better seen not in their singularity so much as a group at the forefront of youth activism attuned to issues of exclusion and marginalization by gender, sexuality, class, and race. A newer group inspired by Fanni Raghman Anni is K’Art-Na, which began a bus tour of Tunisia in September 2016. Equipped with props and sound equipment, K’Art-Na’s bus has trekked through the southern regions of Tunisia, stopping to provide workshops and performances and using street theater to engage such themes as immigration and racism against black citizens of the country. Some projects have involved individuals outside Tunisia. When civil war broke out in Syria, Fanni Raghman Anni took its work to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon. They created opportunities for the children in the camps to express themselves through art, collected their drawings and paintings, took photographs and filmed the performances the children created, and brought what they collected from their work back to Tunisia both to raise awareness about what was going on there and to help raise funds to assist the refugees with whom they worked. In my discussion with group members, it became quite clear that they were most interested in expanding their activities to those areas that seemed outside of politics as usual and to citizens of Tunisia that their websites and pamphlets commonly describe as the “forgotten,” “abandoned,” “marginalized,” and “new.” Who one is or where one is located is not to be a barrier to meaningful participation in the new Tunisia. A form of political education and participation is not so much brought to these individuals and communities as it is inculcated in the very spaces they inhabit. So too, politics, citizenship, and rights for this group are something that is practiced, something performed. According to the group’s website, their aim is “the permanent rooting of concepts such as citizenship and democracy in new activists until it becomes a habit (taqlid) in each.” Conclusion The two cases under discussion here—the anti–sexual harassment campaign in Egypt and the work related to street theater in Tunisia—are exactly that: two types of political activism in two different contexts. However, they share certain features. They intentionally seek to involve both women and men. They were started and/or are run if not by Arab youth (eighteen to twenty-four) then by a relatively young set of individuals (generally in their twenties and thirties). They focus explicitly on and continue the struggle over issues related to mobility and access

128 Michaelle Browers to the public spaces of citizenship. They are fundamentally attuned to how the personal is political—that is, to how interpersonal and systemic forms of oppression are mutually constituting. They are explicitly not state-centered. Rather, like so much contemporary political action in the region, they recenter questions related to feminism and human rights from state-defined actions to more atomized forms of politics. They go to marginalized communities, not so much to bring politics to those left behind by the state as to awaken political subjectivity in bystanders. According to Asef Bayat, it is such new subjectivities that, “if sustained, would serve as the precursor of a social transformation—change in social roles, relations, values and expectations. They inspire a quiet revolution in those layers of society that often remain invisible and undetected” (2017, 185). Finally, while attuned to the gendered aspects of political inequalities, they take a fundamentally intersectional approach, working at once to understand and to confront a series of overlapping social identities, subjectivities, and systems of oppression, domination, and discrimination. While these two cases certainly cannot fully encapsulate all that is going on in terms of political activism since the uprisings, their work embodies some of the more complex enactments of citizenship that continue to be practiced throughout the region1 despite the reassertion of authoritarian forms of politics as usual. It is in the development of such new subjectivities that so many analysts of politics in the Arab region hold out hope for a more fundamental sociopolitical transformation in the long term. Note 1. HarassMap Egypt has inspired and collaborated with Harasstracker ( and Resist Harassment in Lebanon, Ramallah Street Watch ( in Palestine, Safe Streets (http://thesafestreets .org) in Yemen, Women Under Siege ( in Syria, SawtNsaa ( in Algeria, and Women-Shoufouch in Morocco. Although street performance art has a long history throughout the Arab region, among the groups that emerged with the Arab uprisings are Awlad Shawarea (Children of the Streets) in Egypt, the Caravan in Lebanon, Meet Us on the Road (@la2ona3ltari2) in Syria, Our Silence Is a Message in Yemen, and Girifna in Sudan.

8 Gender and Citizenship Stefanie E. Nanes

At its most fundamental level, “citizenship is a legal institution regulating membership in the state’” (Brubaker 1992, 50). Citizenship involves at its heart “the mode of incorporation of individuals within the framework of a social and political community” (Charrad 2000, 70). “Citizenship constitutes political communities within territorial boundaries of states; in short, citizenship is the organizing principle of the modern state” (Butenschon, Davis, and Hassassian 2000, 11). Finally, citizenship means “passive and active membership of individuals in a nation-state with certain universalistic rights and obligations at a specified level of equality” (Janoski 1998, 9). These definitions contain the various but essential aspects of the broad and often amorphous concept of citizenship. Citizenship delineates membership in a territorially bounded political community. Citizenship defines a relationship between individuals, their political community, and the state. Finally, and most importantly for our discussion here, citizenship endows these members with equal rights and obligations. It is this possession of equal rights, specifically women’s dispossession of these citizenship rights, that animates the discussion in this chapter. The practice of citizenship as a set of universalistic rights and obligations, however, is also intimately entwined with democratic regimes. The assumption of a functioning democracy, where citizenship is a relatively stable and robust status for large parts of the population, is simply not operative in much of the Middle East and North Africa.1 Indeed, in most of these countries, all citizens (women and men) suffer profound


130 Stefanie E. Nanes limitations on their citizenship rights. This political context must always remain a key factor in any analysis of citizenship in the region. It could be argued that the lack of democratic regimes precludes the application of the concept of citizenship in the Middle East and North Africa. Academics have argued otherwise with the publication of two seminal volumes on citizenship in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and the State in the Middle East (Butenschon, Davis, and Hassassian 2000) and Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East (Joseph 2000a). The best argument for the continued applicability of citizenship, however, comes from the region itself. The demands of the participants in the massive wave of protests that swept over the Arab world in 2011 fall perfectly in line with demands for full citizenship through a renegotiation, if not a complete destruction, of the existing authoritarian compact between the individual, society, and the state in favor of a more social democratic one (Moghadam 2014b). Even in the many cases where the outcome of the Arab Spring has been conflict (Syria, Yemen, and Libya) or a return of the old regime (Egypt and Bahrain), the demands of protesters, female and male, were demands to be citizens. In Iran, the 2009 Green Movement exemplified these same desires and demands. Women’s movements across the region have engaged in continuous struggles for women’s rights, often couched in the language of citizenship. Well-known efforts, such as the 2006 One Million Signatures Campaign in Iran, and successful campaigns in Morocco and Turkey to reform civil and penal codes attest to the appeal and applicability of citizenship as a category. Yet, it is women who face a “double jeopardy,” as they are “denied full juridical status by being defined as wards of their male relatives” (Kandiyoti 2000, xiv). Women are subject to various trespasses against their bodies and limitations on their actions, including work, education, and movement in public. In most countries, a woman must obtain the permission of her father, husband, or other male guardian to marry, seek employment, start a business, or travel (Moghadam 2003, 128). Only men can divorce unilaterally and without cause; women may seek divorce but only under specific, often onerous conditions. Every state in the region permits fathers and husbands to pass citizenship automatically to their children and non-national spouses; in many cases, mothers and wives are either prevented from passing citizenship to their children and non-national spouses or must fulfill provisions of varying degrees of difficulty to do so (Joseph 2000b). Many acts of gender-based violence are ignored by law. As Mona Eltahawy (2015) succinctly put it, the state oppresses everyone; society oppresses only women. Thus, men have more rights to the extent that rights exist in any given country, in that they are empowered by law and custom to exer-

Gender and Citizenship


cise control over women, namely, their female family members. Conversely, when we speak about women’s gaining rights, it is more accurately the rolling back of men’s power over them. This chapter is an exploration into women’s citizenship in the Middle East and North Africa. I begin with a brief review of the traditional literature on citizenship alongside a (Western) feminist critique of that literature. Then I examine the concept of citizenship in the context of the Middle East and North Africa, focusing particularly on the challenges to women’s citizenship embodied in the centrality of kinship and the family in both formal laws and informal norms. The remaining sections are organized according to the taxonomy used in the standard literature on citizenship, which classifies civil, political, and social rights as the three components of citizenship. While taking care to address the citizenship rights women have, these sections primarily detail the various ways women’s full citizenship is diminished by virtue of their sex. Citizenship: Its Traditional Construction and Feminist Responses Citizenship is gendered (Walby 1994). This gendering is not just women’s long exclusion from its rights and obligations but is built into construction of citizenship as a category. The individual as a rightsbearing individual was always expressly and purposefully male (Pateman 1988, 6). The earliest principles of citizenship were formulated in ancient Greece, where to be a citizen was to engage in decisionmaking for oneself and for others, to rule others and be ruled by equals (Pocock 1995). By definition, this status was accessible to very few adult males: men of known genealogy who were patriarchs, warriors, and masters of the labors of others, both the women and slaves in their household. Owning property was a requirement for citizenship, a capacity denied to women and difficult to obtain for many men. This formulation of citizenship depended on the rigorous separation of public from private. The public realm was where “man exercised his highest capacities as a social animal”; the private sphere, in which “the material necessities of daily life were reproduced, was a lesser realm than the public” (Ignatieff 1995, 56). A further gendering of the construction of citizenship takes place in contract theory, which underpins modern liberal democratic theory. Contract theory, descended from Hobbes, Locke, Kant, and Rousseau, asserts that the state and its citizens are products of a social contract. In this contract, which emerged over the course of the eighteenth century

132 Stefanie E. Nanes in Western Europe, individuals surrender their complete freedom (i.e., natural freedom) to a state that protects their life and property while offering these individuals some civil freedoms (Pateman 1988). In short, obedience is exchanged for protection and civil rights. Only men, however, are born free and thus able to engage in this exchange. Women were deemed as lacking “the attributes and capacities necessary to enter into contract” and, therefore, by definition excluded from the pact between the individual and the state (Pateman 1988, 5–6). Notably, the one contract political theorists allowed, indeed insisted, that women enter was the marriage contract (Pateman 1988, 6).2 Thus, women make an exchange of freedom and obedience for protection and rights within the private sphere in the form of the marriage contract but do not have “rights” of any recognizable sort there. In addition, they are denied access to exercising rights in the public realm. According to contract theory, the structure of conjugal relations reflected the order of nature (Locke, quoted in Pateman 1988, 52). Men’s right over women was assumed to have a natural basis, and women were considered naturally subordinate to men. Thus, contract ordered relations among men in the public sphere, while nature, solidified by contract, determined relations between men and women in the private sphere. This assumption of “naturality” continues to govern social and political relations in most of the Middle East and North Africa. While contract theory defined the (male) individual’s relationship to the state and women’s protection from that relationship, T. H. Marshall’s “Citizenship and Social Class” (1964) lays out the theoretical framework for most contemporary analyses of citizenship. According to Marshall, “citizenship is a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed” (1964, 84). He identified citizenship as a collection of rights: civil, political, and social. Civil rights are “the rights necessary for individual freedom: liberty of the person, freedom of speech, thought and faith, the rights to own property and to conclude valid contracts and the right to justice” (Marshall 1964, 71). Political rights entail the right to vote and to hold public, elected office. Social rights entail the right to a “modicum of economic welfare and security” in order “to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society” (Marshall 1964, 72). These rights were slowly acquired (by British men) in that order, roughly over successive centuries: civil rights in the eighteenth century, political rights in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and social rights in the twentieth century. 3

Gender and Citizenship


Feminist theorists point out limitations in Marshall’s account. It is based solely on the experience of white, working-class men (Lister 2003; Walby 1994). Marshall’s teleological development of citizenship rights, with each one leading to the next, was not the same for women. Women achieved political rights (namely, the right to vote) before their full civil rights (Lister 2003). In practice, Western women used their political rights to press for the expansion of their civil and social rights (Walby 1994). Notably, Marshall acknowledges a sexual division of citizenship in a manner that reinforces the “rights for protection” exchange in contract theory. He observes that protection in the workplace, a social right, was at first explicitly denied to men on the basis that it conflicted with their right to contract employment, a civil right. At the time, workplace protections were extended only to women and children, who enjoyed protection precisely because they were not citizens. If women wished to enjoy full citizenship, they must forego protection (Marshall 1964, 81).4 Patriarchy and the Family In all countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the family remains the core social institution. Almost all constitutions in the region define the family as the basic unit of society. Part of the family’s power in the Middle East and North Africa derives from “its capacity to satisfy basic needs . . . including material interests, security and identity” (Sharabi 1988, 35). The family is the foundation for psychological security and individual identity (Al-Mughni and Tetrault 2000). The term kin contract embodies these practices: the ideal of family love organized within a patriarchal structure of rights and responsibilities (Joseph 2000c, 116). The term patriarchal bargain, used by Kandiyoti (1988), refers to an exchange of submissiveness and propriety by women for protection and economic support from men. Men and women both participate in this exchange, albeit with different obligations and responsibilities. Kinship is “as much about accepting the structure of patriarchal authority and the demands of kin responsibilities as it is about receiving the benefits of kin nurturance” (Joseph 2000c, 121). If women step out of this contract and assert individual rights that come into conflict with their role in the kin contract or patriarchal bargain, they risk foregoing the nurturance and protection that kin provide. Suad Joseph defines patriarchy as “the privileging of males and seniors (including senior women) and the rationalization of male and senior privilege in the idioms and moralities of kinship sanctified by religion” (Joseph 1993). Patriarchal relations within the family control

134 Stefanie E. Nanes men and women, seniors and juniors. Young men are also subject to the constraints of the father and the family, while older women (particularly those with sons) may achieve a certain amount of power, even under patriarchy. In most of the Middle East and North Africa, patriarchy remains largely nested in kinship, where men are privileged as kinsmen, namely, fathers and brothers. Kin-based patriarchy is translated into policy through patrilineality, kinship descent through the father’s lineage. Patrilineality is “the key legal mechanism through which patriarchy has become inscribed in citizenship rules and practices” (Joseph 1999a, 296).5 The family mediates everyone’s citizenship, but more prominently for women than for men. Men’s kinship roles (as older men) seamlessly interact with their citizenship rights, since it is precisely their role as head of the family that makes them citizens.6 Women and men all over the world, however, are enmeshed in care/control relationships in the context of the family. Few people live as the isolated individuals assumed by Western liberal political theory. In the Middle East and North Africa, however, these hierarchical, gendered relationships are inscribed into law, codifying kinship as an institution of governance (Joseph 2000c). This mutually reinforcing relationship between public and private patriarchy is not limited to the Middle East and North Africa. In prerevolutionary France, “authority in the state was explicitly modeled on authority in the family” (Hunt 1992, 3). Patriarchy at that time referred to rule of the political “father” over subject “sons” and was embodied in the body politic through a king. In the French Revolution, the sons overthrew the father and created a fraternal brotherhood, where they ruled as equals among themselves. Ordinary men were emancipated from patriarchy, rule by the father/king.7 French women (and Western women, broadly speaking), however, were not party to this fraternal social and political arrangement. Women were not among the intended beneficiaries of the rights listed in the famous (and aptly named) Declaration of the Rights of Man. The patriarchal relationship, so recently overthrown, was pushed into the private realm and contained within the family. Hisham Sharabi (1988), in his classic analysis of stunted political development in the Arab world, Neopatriarchy, offers a similar analysis of the mutually constitutive relationship between power relations in the public and private spheres. Neopatriarchy is defined as a combination of modernity and patriarchy. Under neopatriarchy, both the patriarchal family and the larger society are characterized by relations of authority, domination, and dependency. Within the family, patriarchy is defined by the dominance of “the Father,”8 the patriarch, in which “privilege and

Gender and Citizenship


power are assigned to the male, at the expense of the female, crippling her under legal and social constraints” (Sharabi 1988, 33). The relationship between ruler and ruled in the Arab world, like that between father and child, is also characterized by an absolute paternal will, a “forced consensus based on ritual and coercion” (Sharabi 1988, 7). There is some debate among scholars over the benefits and consequences of the family for women in the Middle East and North Africa. Most argue that kinship and religious forces exercise undue power over women. Others argue that since these structures will not disappear any time soon, they need to be worked within and through to empower women (Altorki 2000). In non-Western societies, the moral solidarity of the community is more important than the individual. Many women in the region wish to maintain, if not strengthen, the family’s protection and care, even as they strain against its control. Thus, rather than formal, individual rights, it will be “informal and uninstitutionalized forms of power” that women may come to enjoy (Altorki 2000, 236). Yet, citizenship is the organizing principle of the modern state (Butenschon, Davis, and Hassassian 2000), and citizenship, by definition, regulates the individual’s relationship to the state (Janoski 1998). Citizenship mediated by the family presents enormous challenges for building a modern relationship between states and societies, and even building modern states themselves. Women may eventually possess informal and uninstitutionalized forms of power, but that arrangement is either a diminished form of citizenship or not citizenship at all. The Substance of Citizenship: Civil, Political, and Social Rights The remaining sections are an overview of the citizenship rights women have and do not have in the Middle East and North Africa, organized according to Marshall’s (1964) taxonomy. The discussion begins with civil rights, continues with political rights, and concludes with social rights. Building on previous work in the field, the following sections of this chapter rely on Suad Joseph’s Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East (2000a) as a starting point but include reforms that have taken place since its publication in 2000. The two most far-reaching legislative changes in the region to date were to Morocco’s Mudawanna (Personal Status Code) in 2004 and amendments to the civil and penal codes in Turkey in 2001 and 2004, respectively. Due to the large range of these reforms, they are treated in a separate section.

136 Stefanie E. Nanes Civil Rights

Civil rights establish the legal existence of a person, including the right to enter contracts, the right to justice, the liberty of the person, and the right to own property. The right to own property is one of the few rights that women solidly retain in the region, as it is a right clearly stated in the Quran. Although women’s right to property through inheritance may be subject to family pressure, a woman’s fundamental right to own and dispose of property in her own name remains intact. The right to freely enter contracts includes the right to work. Unlike the right to own property, many wives in the Muslim Middle East and North Africa must seek their husband’s or male guardian’s permission to work outside the home. Examples include Jordan (Amawi 2000), Iran (Hoodfar 2000), and Yemen (Carapico and Wuerth 2000). In Iran, the husband, and the husband alone, may determine whether his wife’s working is compatible with the interests of the family or with his or his wife’s dignity (WLUML 2014). This statute impedes both women’s right to work and their right to freedom of movement (i.e., liberty of the person). The right to own property and the right to work do not require a gendered lens or definition of those rights to facilitate application in the Middle East and North Africa. Other civil rights do. Civil rights for women include marriage as a form of contract (and divorce a means of legally exiting that contract), the right to bodily integrity as a form of the right to justice, and the right to freedom of movement as a form of the liberty of the person. Inheritance and child custody are also examined here as additional areas of personal status law that discriminate against women. The right to enter freely into (and exit from) contract: Marriage and divorce. In Islamic law, marriage is concluded as a contract.9 Once mar-

ried, a woman is subject to her husband’s control in many, if not all, of the civil rights that follow. While Muslim men may marry Christian or Jewish women, Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men. Tunisia became the regional exception in September 2017, when the law prohibiting Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men was overturned (Egyptian Streets 2017). In many Muslim countries, marriage remains largely an agreement between two families, rather than between two individuals with equal rights and obligations. Women in most of these countries must have a male guardian contract their marriage. Islamic law allows women to insert stipulations into the marriage contract, but this remains difficult in practice, since she must obtain the permission of her legal guardian (Moghadam 2003, 128).

Gender and Citizenship


Some countries set the minimum age of consent at the generally accepted age of majority, either seventeen or eighteen. In many countries, however, the law provides a loophole in which a younger girl may be married by her parents with a judge’s consent. In Iran, where the age of consent is thirteen, close to 40,000 girls under the age of fifteen were married in 2011 (WLUML 2014). Many countries prescribe marital relations in law, requiring a husband to provide for his wife and a wife to obey her husband. For example, Jordanian law states that a man must treat his wife kindly and she is to obey him in legal matters (Amawi 2000, 171). In Palestine, male maintenance is exchanged for female obedience (Jad, Johnson, and Giacamen 2000, 148). Turkey and Morocco only recently lifted these legal stipulations in the reforms described in a later section. In the entire Middle East and North Africa, only Turkey and Tunisia allow civil marriage, do not require a guardian, and have legal means by which men and women have equal rights and responsibilities in divorce and marriage. In the rest of the region, only men can divorce unilaterally and without cause; women may seek divorce but only under specific conditions (Moghadam 2003, 128). In Iran, women must prove that they are enduring an intolerable level of difficulty and hardship in the marriage (WLUML 2014). Egypt passed a law in 2000 (the Khula Law) that allowed for unconditional divorce for women, but only after they have proven they have returned whatever possessions their husbands gave them during their marriage (Hafez 2014; Morsey 2014). In Israel, marriage and divorce are regulated by religious law for all citizens. Israeli Palestinian Muslim women must abide by the rules listed here for other Muslim women. Israeli Jewish women have all rights in marriage as women in the West; however, they do not have the right to initiate divorce.

Additional personal status laws: Custody and inheritance. Typically, a divorced woman may retain custody of her children but only up to a specified age, usually quite young. If she remarries, she typically loses custody of her children and visitation rights. Men who remarry do not lose custody or visitation rights. In Iran, women retain custody of boys until age two and girls to age seven, after which the children automatically revert to the father’s custody. In Lebanon, while laws differ from sect to sect, religious institutions in general have tended to support the claims of the father’s lineage over a mother’s claim to children in cases of custody (Joseph 1999a). Women in Jordan may retain custody of children but only under strict conditions (Amawi 2000). Even after Tunisia’s democratic transition, the father remains the legal guardian of

138 Stefanie E. Nanes the children, even if the mother has been granted custody after divorce. Tunisian judges possess the discretion to grant custody to either the father or the mother based on the best interests of the child, but women still lose custody if they remarry. No such restriction applies to fathers (Human Rights Watch: Tunisia 2015). Divorced Egyptian mothers gained an expansion of custody rights in 2005, when a new custody law granted them the right of custody for both boys and girls until the age of fifteen (Morsey 2014, 213). In 2004, Egypt introduced a system of family courts and established the Family Insurance Fund, which enabled women to pursue court-ordered alimony and child support (Kato 2017, 46). Islamic laws regarding inheritance are widely applied in the region in which daughters inherit less property than sons (Cherif 2010). In many cases, women are encouraged to give up their inheritance in exchange for a promise of future protection. Evidence from Jordan shows women are often pressured, if not coerced, into signing away their inheritance rights (Nanes 2010). In Lebanon, many women voluntarily surrender their inheritance rights to their brothers, relying on their male kin to provide for them in the future (Joseph 2000c). Tunisia is the only Muslim country considering amending the law that gives women less inheritance than men, in favor of equality in inheritance between men and women (Egyptian Streets 2017). The right to justice: The right to bodily integrity and legal protection from violence. Women’s rights to justice in much of the Middle East

and North Africa are routinely trampled through unpunished violence against women, virginity tests, and honor crimes. In most cases, the law simply does not punish these violations, which are exercised exclusively against women. Very few countries have laws against domestic violence. Many countries have laws that allow rapists to escape prosecution if they marry the victim. Marital rape is not recognized as a crime, as marriage gives every husband unfettered right of access to his wife’s body (Moghadam 2003, 128). In many countries, criminal codes provide for acquittal or reduced sentence for men who commit honor crimes, including Jordan, eastern Turkey, and Palestine (Arat 2000; Jad, Johnson, and Giacamen 2000; Nanes 2003). During the 2011 protests in Egypt, state authorities exercised multiple types of bodily violence against female activists to suppress their activism and humiliate them (Hafez 2014, 173). These practices included virginity tests, sexual assaults, and fatwas or religious decrees validating the rape of unveiled activists. Mona Eltahawy’s personal account of sexual harassment and assault during the Arab Spring protests attests to the

Gender and Citizenship


violence exercised by male protesters (Eltahawy 2015). As a response, Adly Mansour, Egypt’s interim president, issued a presidential decree to make sexual harassment a crime (Kato 2017, 48).10 Five years after the 2011 revolution, the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women reported that 70 percent of Tunisian women have been the victim of abuse, in most cases domestic abuse with few means of redress (Nabil 2016). Tunisian law still allows a rapist accused of raping a woman between age fifteen and twenty to escape prosecution by marrying his victim (Amnesty International 2017). The liberty of the person: Freedom of movement. Liberty of the per-

son includes the right to move freely, both locally and internationally. As of current writing, all women in the region finally have the right to drive. Saudi Arabia, the long-standing regional (and global) exception, passed legislation in September 2017 allowing women to apply for a driver’s license, without a guardian’s permission (Hubbard 2017). Women’s freedom of movement in most of the region, however, remains restricted in formal and informal ways. In Iran, a woman is legally required to have her husband’s permission to leave the house (Hoodfar 2000). If she leaves the house without her husband’s permission, she will be considered nashezeh (disobedient) and divorced without compensation, even if she leaves in cases of spousal abuse (WLUML 2014).11 In many other countries, while the male prerogative to prevent female family members (whether wives or sisters) from leaving the house is not written into law, women’s movement in public is proscribed by cultural understandings of appropriate behavior for women. The freedom to travel internationally can be measured by women’s access to a separate passport. Most married women cannot get a passport or travel internationally (or both) without their husband’s permission. A married Jordanian woman has the right to leave the country with a valid passport, but she cannot get a separate passport without her husband’s permission. Single, adult Jordanian women can get a passport without a guardian’s permission (Amawi 2000, 164). In Iran, women need written permission from their husband to be issued a passport. Iranian husbands may ban their wives from traveling and have the authority to request that their wives’ passports be confiscated (WLUML 2014). Lebanese women can travel freely, but their husbands can prevent their international travel by putting their name at all relevant points of exit and entry during international travel (Mikdashi 2010). As of 2000, Egyptian women may apply for a passport and travel without spousal consent (Kato 2017, 46). In November 2015, Tunisian women gained the right to travel with their minor children without

140 Stefanie E. Nanes getting permission from the children’s father (Human Rights Watch: Tunisia 2015). Significant Changes to Civil and Penal Codes Since 2000: Morocco and Turkey

Since the publication of Joseph’s Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East in 2000, Morocco and Turkey have passed significant reforms to their civil and penal codes that directly impact various civil rights for women. The 2004 reform to the Mudawanna (Personal Status Code) in Morocco represents a wide-scale change for Moroccan women. Women of legal majority gained the right to contract their own marriages without a legal guardian’s permission. Articles that specified separate rights and duties for men and women, requiring the wife’s “obedience” and specifying a requirement of married couples to procreate, were eliminated. They were replaced by statements establishing reciprocal rights and duties and defining marriage as “a legal contract by which a man and a woman consent to unite in order to have a common and lasting marital life” (Mudawanna translation). Husbands wishing to marry a second wife must now obtain the permission of the first wife and must inform the second wife of the first wife’s existence (Žvan Elliott 2014, 4).12 An additional marriage requires the approval of a judge, requires the husband to demonstrate the “necessity” of the second marriage, allows women to establish the condition of no additional marriages in their marriage contract, and requires absolute “fairness” between wives. According to observers, the law establishes high enough standards as to make it very difficult to marry a second wife, if not a practical impossibility (Hursh 2012). The 2004 reform also granted women additional protections in case of divorce, requiring a judge’s approval, thus prohibiting unilateral divorce. Mothers have first right of custody, and mothers who remarry may retain custody of their children under certain, albeit somewhat onerous, conditions (Hursh 2012). The revised Mudawanna still identifies the family, not the individual, as the nucleus of society and defines mutual rights and obligations in a system of complementarity rather than equality (Žvan Elliott 2014). For example, the revised Mudawanna retains stipulations that husbands are responsible for the financial maintenance of their wives and children and designates the father as the primary legal representative of his children regardless of whether he has custody over them (Žvan Elliot 2014, 4). Many Moroccan men and women see mandating male financial support of wives and children as benefiting women;

Gender and Citizenship


however, it is also used as justification for discrimination against women in the labor market and for husbands who wish to prevent their wives from working outside the home. In terms of implementation, the law allowing women to contract their own marriages is not widely implemented. Less than one-quarter of women who marry take advantage of the law (Žvan Elliott 2014, 8). For many women, it is considered shameful to get married without the consent of her guardian, particularly in rural areas, where “religion and custom” dictate the rules by which women (and men) marry (Žvan Elliott 2014; Cavatorta and Dalmasso 2009). Having a guardian contract her marriage is seen as protecting her interests, her honor, and the honor of both families. Finally, although the reform raised the minimum age of marriage for girls from fifteen to eighteen, judges retain the authority to grant exceptions “in justified cases.” Turkey has long been at the forefront of women’s rights in the region, having adopted the Swiss family code at independence. Yet amendments to the civil and penal codes reveal that even Turkey had a distance to travel to protect women’s rights. The amendments to the Turkish civil code, passed in 2001, show some similarities to Morocco’s revision of the Mudawanna. The legal supremacy of men in marriage was terminated. The amendment eliminated the male right to unilateral divorce. The minimum age of marriage, which was seventeen for men and fifteen for women, was raised to eighteen for both men and women (Afary 2004). But Turkey went further. Men and women were declared equal in marriage. Articles in the constitution that declared the husband to be the head of the household, which obliged him to earn for the family and the wife to be his helper, were deleted. Equal rights of inheritance were extended to children born outside wedlock. Single parents may now adopt children. The property regime changed from one based on separate ownership of property to one based on the sharing of property acquired during marriage, thus recognizing women’s unremunerated labor at home. In cases of divorce, a woman can now claim a fifty-fifty split of the property registered in her husband’s name if the property was acquired during their marriage (Arat 2010; Ilkkaracan n.d.). The amendment regarding property generated the most heated debate. Some conservatives opposed equal sharing of property acquired during marriage, preferring separate ownership of property that benefits men as the primary breadwinners. A last-minute amendment limited this application to property acquired after January 2002. Women’s groups plan to fight this last amendment. Both Morocco and Turkey amended their penal codes, thus addressing many violations of women’s right to justice. Morocco’s amendment

142 Stefanie E. Nanes to its penal code in 2014 eliminated the option for a rapist to escape prosecution by marrying his underage victim. The new code mandates a prison sentence of one to five years for rape (Al Jazeera 2014a). In the reform of its penal code, Turkey again went further by eliminating many legal protections for violations of women’s bodily integrity, bringing its penal code increasingly in line with international human rights norms. The direct result of years of organizing and lobbying by the Turkish feminist movement, the 2004 reform includes more than thirty amendments that constitute extraordinary steps toward gender equality and the protection of women’s human rights in Turkey. Like many penal codes in the region, the previous penal code was built around a set of assumptions that women belong to men, their families, and society—not themselves; they must remain chaste and preserve family honor. Punishment was acceptable for women who did not act in accordance with these principles. The 2004 reforms eliminated laws built around chastity, honor, and the idea that women belong to men, their families, or society. A woman’s body and sexuality now belong to her and her alone. The first article of the new code asserts the aim of the penal code is to “protect the rights and freedoms of individuals,” not families. The amendments affecting women include criminalization of marital rape, measures to prevent reduced sentences for perpetrators of honor killings, elimination of discrimination against nonvirgin and unmarried women in sentencing for rape or abduction,13 criminalization of sexual harassment in the workplace, and defining sexual assaults by security forces as aggravated offenses (Ilkkaracan n.d.). Provisions aimed at the sexual abuse of children explicitly defined sexual abuse, removed the notion of “consent of the child,” and eliminated provisions for perpetrators of abduction or rape to escape prosecution by marrying the victim. Other amendments eliminated the possibility for reduced sentences for women who kill newborn children born out of wedlock and limited the definition of “indecent behavior” to sexual intercourse in public and exhibitionism (Ilkkaracan n.d.). Although these reforms are tremendous, there were others the feminist movement wanted, did not achieve, and plan to continue to struggle for, including a definition of honor killings in all cases as aggravated homicide, the penalization of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the criminalization of virginity testing under all circumstances (Ilkkaracan n.d.). Political Rights

In many countries in the region, women’s political rights emerged as part of women’s participation in the struggle for independence from colonial

Gender and Citizenship


rule. In countries such as Tunisia (Charrad 2001), Turkey (Arat 2000), Iran (Najmabadi 1991), Iraq (Ismael and Ismael 2000), and Egypt (Hatem 2000), women gained voting and employment rights soon after independence. These rights were granted as part of economic development programs. In these state feminist projects, women were harnessed as loyal subjects of the state, and women’s movements became state-controlled tools of larger modernization projects. Thus, these rights came with a price: women became dependent citizens of the state (Hatem 2005). In these cases of state feminism, however, independent women’s movements were sidelined or, more often, suppressed. In other countries, namely, the monarchies, the right to vote came later: Jordan in 1974, Kuwait in 2005, and Saudi Arabia in 2011. Only in Kuwait was the right to vote won through decades of struggle by women’s rights groups (Tetreault, Meyer, and Rizzo 2009). Saudi Arabia was the last country in the region (and the second to last in the world) to grant women the right to vote in 2011, but only in municipalities (to which Saudi men are also limited).14 Women have the right to run for office in all Middle Eastern countries. In terms of women’s actual ascent to positions of political power, the Arab world has the second-lowest average of women legislators in national parliaments (19 percent).15 There is a wide range within that regional average. The highest rates are in Tunisia, where women comprise 35.9 percent, followed by Israel at 29.2 percent of parliament members. Algeria at 25.8 percent, Iraq at 25.2 percent, and Morocco at 20.5 percent are close to the global average of 24.3 percent. Turkey has 17 percent, while both Jordan and Egypt are slightly lower at 15 percent. Most other countries in the region, however, fall well below the global average. In Iran, the percentage is 6 percent; in Lebanon, it is 5 percent. Kuwait has only 3 women in its national parliament, while Oman and Yemen each have one. Some of the more impressive results in terms of women’s representation in national legislatures are the product of gender quotas. Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco use parliamentary and local-level quotas to raise women’s representation in elected bodies (Quota Project n.d.). Iraq’s 2005 constitution mandates that one-quarter of parliamentary seats be held by women. In Turkey, two political parties have adopted voluntary party quotas. Tunisia’s 2011 parity law requires half of each political party’s candidates to be female. Jordan has an eighteen-seat reservation for women in parliament. After 2013, Egypt implemented a complex form of quota that requires the following: political parties must nominate at least one woman as part of their district candidate lists, some women must be listed as candidates for protected categories (such as Christians, workers, or youth), and the

144 Stefanie E. Nanes president must dedicate fourteen of his allocated twenty-seven appointments to women (Morsy 2015). This quota resulted in an all-time high for Egypt in terms of women in parliament with seventy-five women elected, in addition to the fourteen appointed, in the 2015 elections. The Arab Spring protests offered women expanded space to exercise their political citizenship in the form of public protest. In Tunisia, women were present at all significant protests of the Jasmine Revolution, participating alongside men on behalf of all Tunisians (Khalil 2014c). In the subsequent transition, Tunisian women had to fight to preserve their rights as women. The defense of Tunisia’s progressive personal status code (CPS) became one of the most significant debates in the writing of Tunisia’s new constitution (Charrad and Zarrugh 2014). Although all parties maintained the importance of the CPS, there was vigorous debate between secular and Islamist movements (and secular and Islamist women) over the terms used to describe the roles of men and women within the family in the constitution. Islamists wanted the word “complementary,” claiming that complementarity meant partnership, not inequality. Feminists were concerned that, despite many other references to equality in the draft constitution (including equal rights for citizens and equality between spouses), any deviation from the principle of equality could be used in the future to justify discrimination against women. Tunisian women’s groups launched an assertive and ultimately successful campaign to remove all references to complementarity in the constitution, a rare victory for women’s rights in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Additional victories in the aftermath of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution include lifting its remaining reservations to CEDAW. By doing so, Tunisia granted men and women equal rights in passing nationality to children, marriage and divorce, and the guardianship and adoption of children (Whitaker 2011). Egyptian women did not fare as well. They were not as well organized as Tunisian women and faced an Islamist context much less amenable to compromise than Tunisia’s. As in Tunisia, Egyptian women’s prominent visibility in the protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak “broke through the patriarchal barriers that customarily barred them from occupying equal public space” (Morsey 2014, 212). Despite their strong presence and active participation in elections as voters, candidates, and supporters, however, women’s institutional participation in Egypt’s transition was limited (Hafez 2014; Morsey 2014). With Islamists’ controlling the legislature and the presidency, the final draft of Egypt’s postrevolution 2012 constitution, written by a committee with no women or secular liberal input and passed in a referendum, stipulated that the principles of Islamic law were “the main sources of leg-

Gender and Citizenship


islation” (Morsey 2014, 223). An equality clause declaring that “citizens are equal before the law, with no distinction based on gender, origin, language, religion, dogma, opinion, social status, or disability” was dropped from an early draft. During their brief tenure in power, members of Parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood sought to roll back the progressive changes to family law passed by Mubarak in the previous decade. They advocated repeal of the Khula Law, a reduction in maternal custody to age seven for boys and ten for girls, and a requirement that a woman who has left her marital home must return, ceasing alimony if she does not (Kato 2017, 47). The Muslim Brotherhood–inspired constitution and their regressive legislative efforts were suspended after Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s ascent to power in 2013. Al-Sisi’s government passed a new constitution that reflected some improvements over the previous one. Women comprised five out of fifty committee members who drafted the constitution; these women were highly regarded feminists and activists on behalf of women’s rights (Kato 2017). The constitution directs “the state [to] ensure equal opportunity for all citizens without discrimination” and secures women’s right to pass their Egyptian nationality to their children. Article 11 explicitly affirms a commitment to equality between men and women and the responsibility of the state to enforce it, restoring the clause withdrawn from the previous constitution. Article 11 also guarantees women’s right to high positions in the government, including the judiciary, and specifies the parliamentary quota for women discussed above. Some articles, however, are the same as the 2012 “Islamist” constitution, namely, Article 2, which asserts that “Islam is the religion of the state” and “the principles of Islamic Sharia are the principle source of legislation” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2014). Since the article immediately following that one states that religious law will regulate the personal status of Christians and Jews, it can safely be assumed that personal status of Muslim women is governed by Islamic law. As already discussed at length, commitment to religious personal status laws by definition contradicts any commitment to equality between men and women. Article 10 in both constitutions asserts that the family, not the individual, is the basis of society. In addition, enforcement of the progressive aspects of the constitution remains an open question; the constitutional provisions for freedom of speech and rights of due process are routinely trampled in al-Sisi’s Egypt. Iraq’s 2005 constitution is another example of a somewhat mixed bag of rights and restrictions in an environment of questionable enforcement. It contains some benefits for women. It prohibits discrimination based on gender and asserts that “all forms of violence and abuse in the

146 Stefanie E. Nanes family, school and society shall be prohibited.” It states that Islamic law is “a” source, not “the” source of law in the country. It grants Iraqi women the right to pass Iraqi nationality to their children. As mentioned, it mandates one-quarter of parliamentary seats be held by women. Like other constitutions in the region, however, the Iraqi constitution declares “the family is the foundation of society; the state preserves its entity and its religious, moral and patriotic values” (“Iraqi Constitution” 2005). The constitution also declares that “Iraqis are free in their commitment to their personal status according to their religions, sects, beliefs or choices.” This article leaves women vulnerable to pressures within their families. It also implies that individuals can choose between civil and religious law. The civil option, however, is not clearly delineated either in the constitution or in subsequent legislation (Efrati 2005). This change leaves the legal door open for many of the restrictions related to personal status listed in the previous section on civil rights. Nationality rights. While women are held up to society as the symbols

of the nation and transmitters of national culture, they are prevented in many countries from passing the legal status of national belonging— nationality.16 Every state in the region permits fathers to pass citizenship automatically to their children and non-national spouses; in most countries, mothers and wives either are prevented from passing citizenship to their children and non-national spouses or must fulfill provisions of varying degrees of difficulty (Joseph 2000a; Moghadam 2003). The current exceptions where women may pass their nationality automatically to their children are Algeria, Turkey, Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, and Morocco. Women in Iran, Lebanon, and Yemen may pass their nationality to their children under specific circumstances. An Iranian woman married to a non-Iranian can pass her nationality to her children in the following, highly specified circumstances: she acquired official permission to marry a non-national prior to the marriage, the marriage was legally registered with Iranian authorities, and the child was born in Iran and there at least one year after reaching the age of eighteen (Hoodfar 2000, 305; WLUML 2014). There are two cases in which a Lebanese woman can pass her nationality to her children: naturalized Lebanese wives (i.e., non-national women who acquired Lebanese citizenship automatically through their Lebanese husbands) may pass Lebanese citizenship to future children if their Lebanese husband dies (Joseph 2000c; or if the child is born on Lebanese soil, the mother is unmarried, and no one claims paternity over her illegitimate child within the first year (Mikdashi 2010). Any child born to a Yemeni woman in Yemen is automatically a Yemeni

Gender and Citizenship


national, regardless of the nationality or religion of the father (Carapico and Wuerth 2000, 266). As in Lebanon, the child must be born on national soil for the mother to obtain this capacity. In addition, a child born outside Yemen to a Yemeni mother and a father of unknown citizenship may gain Yemeni citizenship by living in Yemen for ten years past the age of majority. Tunisian, Moroccan, and Lebanese women may pass their nationality to a non-national spouse under specific conditions. Foreign men married to Tunisian women may acquire Tunisian citizenship by learning Arabic, and the couple must reside in Tunisia at the time of the request (Charrad 2000). A Moroccan woman may pass her nationality to a non-national husband if he is from either an Arabic-speaking or Islamic country and he has had a continuous marriage to a Moroccan woman in combination with a permanent residence in Morocco for at least one year (Charrad 2000). A Lebanese woman may pass her nationality to her (next) husband if she was a naturalized Lebanese citizen due to a prior marriage to a Lebanese man (Joseph 2000c, 128). Notably, naturalized Lebanese female citizens who acquire their citizenship through their Lebanese husbands have more rights to convey their nationality to either their children or non-national husbands than Lebanese women who acquired their citizenship through their fathers. An Iranian woman may lose her Iranian citizenship if the country of her husband forces her to accept the citizenship of her husband, as Afghanistan does. Women in Turkey as well as Israeli Jewish women marrying Jewish men may pass their nationality to a non-national spouse with virtually no conditions, in a manner equal to men. In Turkey, the nonnational spouse (male or female) must reside in Turkey with their spouse for at least three years to be eligible for Turkish citizenship. In Israel, while neither Jewish nor Palestinian women are disadvantaged by citizenship law based on gender, the law privileges Jews over Palestinians (Swirski 2000). Separate rules for Jews and Palestinians govern the passage of nationality to children and non-national spouses. Israeli Jews acquire citizenship based on birth to Jewish parents. For Palestinian citizens of Israel, Israeli citizenship is obtained by birth to parents who are citizens of Israel. Naturalized Israeli citizens who are Jewish may hold dual citizenship; naturalized non-Jews must renounce their foreign citizenship upon marriage to Jewish Israelis. In 2003, Israel passed a law under which Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip (women under twenty-five, men under thirty-five) who marry Israelis (typically Palestinian citizens of Israel) are not allowed to move to Israel; above those ages, Palestinians may move to Israel, but

148 Stefanie E. Nanes they are only granted temporary residency.17 Currently, there is no path to citizenship for Arab women (typically Palestinian women from the West Bank and Gaza Strip) marrying Palestinian men with Israeli citizenship. Social Rights

Traditionally, social rights have been understood as the rights that ensure “a modicum of economic welfare and security” (Marshall 1964, 72). More recent theorists have fleshed out this general definition by specifying the following categories of social rights: enabling and preventative rights, such as health services and family allowances; opportunity rights, such as access to various levels and forms of education; distributive rights, such as unemployment compensation; and compensatory rights, such as war injury payments (Janoski 1998, 31). Feminist authors have expanded this analysis further, suggesting social rights specific to women, such as paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare (Moghadam 2013, 101). Social provisions vary widely across the region. Israel provides social benefits on a level comparable to Western Europe, although there is discrimination between Jewish and Palestinian communities. The populist, modernizing republics (Egypt, Syria, and Iraq) offered generous social provisions in the 1950s and 1960s in line with their populist development programs. Globalization and neoliberal programs have eroded these social provisions in all three countries, while a US invasion of Iraq and a civil war in Syria have visited additional devastation on the socioeconomic fabric of those countries. Egypt guarantees the right to free education and health care in its 2013 constitution, although the quality of these services cannot always be assumed. Notably, the constitution also ensures “the care and protection for motherhood and childhood, for breadwinning and elderly women and women most in need” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2014). Virtually all countries in the region mandate paid maternity leave of between 30 days (in the private sector in Tunisia) and 120 days (in Syria for the first child) (UN Women 2015). Lebanon is the exception, with no federally guaranteed maternity leave. These generous provisions, however, are often obviated by other labor market or social realities for women. Women’s work in the informal sector, often in agriculture, is often either paid on a daily basis or not paid at all but defined as “family help” (Skalli 2001, 78). In Morocco and Yemen, which guarantee fourteen weeks and seventy days of maternity leave, respectively, the overwhelming majority of working women are employed in the informal agricultural sector. Women’s freedom to work outside the

Gender and Citizenship


home is often limited by male family prerogative. In Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where women are guaranteed ten weeks and forty-five days of paid maternity leave, respectively, women must obtain the permission of their male guardian to work. Women’s access to higher education is widely protected in the region, with women enjoying access to higher education in every country in the region and in many cases surpassing men in their pursuit of it. Of the countries for which there were data, numbers of female university students exceeded numbers of men in nine of eleven countries.18 Only in Morocco and Turkey was there a female to male ratio that favored men. High rates of education, however, have not translated into high rates of formal employment. Women’s employment rates in the region remain notoriously low, compared to global averages (Moghadam 2013). Thus, any social insurance benefits associated with formal employment, such as employment compensation, do not accrue to women. Starting in the 1980s, many countries in the region underwent significant neoliberal market reforms that often included cuts to the governmentprovided safety net, which offered a “modicum of economic welfare and security.” These cuts have affected all low- and middle-income people in the region but have had a disproportionate impact on women. Indeed, the stated aim of neoliberal reform is to shift responsibility from the public to the private sphere, thus it is the family network that is expected to provide the necessary support or “safety net” to alleviate the impoverishment of its members (Skalli 2001, 83). Since much of the work in the private sphere is done by women, this shift vastly increased the amount of domestic labor performed by women. The family remains the primary, if not the only, economic support in case of financial need. Women often fall into poverty after divorce or becoming a widow. The vulnerability of divorced women and widows exposes the family as an unreliable form of economic protection. In these cases, women are more likely to fall into poverty, given a lack of education and skills for the labor market as well as religious and cultural constraints that make it hard for women to find jobs (Skalli 2001, 81; Sullivan 2013). In the Middle East and North Africa, social benefits are typically channeled through men as heads of households (with the exception of Israel). Social welfare is highest in oil economies in the Gulf that can afford it; however, women face barriers in these cases as well. For example, many of these countries offer housing assistance to their citizens, but this assistance is mediated through male family members. Bahraini women are granted houses from the government only if they are widowed or divorced. Married women need their husbands’ permission

150 Stefanie E. Nanes to request assistance (Al-Munajjed 2012).19 Omani law allows equal access for men and women to own residential land, but local traditions “are still an obstacle for women to gain access to housing independently.” Men in Qatar are given priority in applications for state housing assistance. There are numerous conditions for Emirati women to access housing assistance: they must be widowed; divorced; women without parents, husbands, or family to support them; or unmarried women over thirty whose parents have died. In Saudi Arabia, housing loans are available to Saudi men at age twenty-one if married or age twenty-four if single. Loans are available to a Saudi woman if she has been divorced for more than two years, is a widow who has not remarried, or has reached the age of forty and is still single. In Kuwait, women can obtain some social benefits on their own, albeit at a restricted level. Women may receive welfare assistance, namely, monthly income support and rent subsidies, but only if they can prove they are unemployed and without any male support (Al-Mughni and Tetrault 2000). Women who are found to be employed or with some male relative are denied benefits. Many of these women are sequestered in apartment blocks that are isolated and subject to high rates of violent crime. These female heads of households live in apartments, not houses, because their singleness is seen as temporary by the state. The weakness of social rights for women (and men) suggests perhaps the greatest weakness in the concept of citizenship in the region. Moghadam argues that the 2011 protests show that the type of democracy people in the region want is a social democracy, “premised on notions of social rights and economic citizenship” (2014b, 141). Conclusion With some bright spots, women’s citizenship status in the Middle East and North Africa remains a collection of limited civil, political, and social rights. Due to authoritarian systems and weak economies, women’s political and social rights are as limited as those for men. In most countries, it is in the area of civil rights that women’s citizenship is most constricted: their freedom to enter and leave contracts, the right to justice, and the right to liberty of the person. These violations emerge in a context of a legal system that inscribes patriarchal family relations into law. Women’s citizenship is mediated by the family. Penal codes enshrine traditional norms about appropriate female behavior and permissible male behavior giving virtually complete sanction to violations of women’s freedom of movement and right to justice.

Gender and Citizenship


The bright spots of change are Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia. It remains to be seen how legal reform or regime transition affects the social environment for women. Legal protections can only define the outer boundaries of what is possible. The loosening restrictions and tightening protections for women simply allow women more capacity to organize on their own behalf. A steeper mountain remains for the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. Sharabi’s Neopatriarchy closes with a manifesto for change in the Arab world. In it, he calls for a political, social, and cultural shift to a radical-democratic paradigm, from regimes based on force to ones based on rule of law (Sharabi 1988). This will be an extended process, he argues, one with women’s organizations at the forefront. In short, he encapsulates many demands made by protesters in the Arab world and Iran, more than two decades after his book was written. It remains to be seen whether and how the transformation he calls for will emerge. Notes 1. This chapter addresses the entire Middle East, which is taken to include all Arab countries, Israel, Turkey, and Iran. Since this range includes many countries, and even more citizenship regulations than there are countries, addressing every aspect of citizenship law in each country is impossible. By necessity, this chapter offers an overview. 2. Only Hobbes among the contract theorists recognized that conjugal right (a man’s right to rule his wife) was political. He argued that the contract between men and the state emerged through force and that in the state of nature, only the mother has a right to her child. As such, Hobbes understood that the power relations embodied in the marital contract, and that conjugal, patriarchal right, were a form of political subjugation (Pateman 1988, 50). 3. Marshall saw the British democratic welfare state in the mid-twentieth century as having reached the apex of citizenship’s promise by guaranteeing all three types of rights. 4. These arguments became obsolete by the end of the nineteenth century, as workplace protections for all became a pillar of social rights (Marshall 1964). 5. Although Joseph refers to Lebanon in this quote, the description extends to many countries in the region. 6. In Jordan, for example, only men possess a “family book,” the legal document that lists family members and is required for any interaction with the state. Wives and children are listed in his family book; men acquire their own family book when they marry. Widows and divorcees can get their own book, but children are always on their father’s registry (Amawi 2000, 166). 7. Radical French republicans also identified tyrannical power within the family, seeing it as a reproduction of the political regime they had just overthrown. In an attack on this form of tyranny, they passed laws mandating equality in inheritance between sons and daughters and included the right to inherit by illegitimate children (Hunt 1992, 66). 8. Capitalization in the original.

152 Stefanie E. Nanes 9. Jewish law also delineates marriage as a contract. Since there are fewer limitations on Jewish women in Israel, Jewish law is directly addressed only in the case in which it discriminates against women: divorce. 10. Enforcement remains an open question, but the law shows official recognition of the problem. 11. In a harrowing example of multiple civil rights violations, a sixteen-year-old Iranian wife, initially declared by her doctor too young for a pregnancy, needed a cesarean section to save the child and perhaps her own life. Her husband, a member of the Revolutionary Guard, refused, insisting that the decision was his alone and it was God’s will whether the woman and child live or die. The baby was born braindamaged. The husband has remarried and no longer supports the woman or the child. 12. These rules tended to be observed in practice but are now codified by law. 13. In the previous code, crimes against virgins and married women received a higher penalty than crimes against nonvirgins and unmarried women. 14. The only country in the world where neither women nor men have the right to vote is the Kingdom of Brunei. 15. All statistics are current as of March 2017 (Women in National Parliaments). 16. Marshall’s taxonomy does not include nationality rights—the right to pass one’s nationality to one’s children and non-national spouse. Newer theoretical research on citizenship codes nationality rights under political rights (Janoski 1998, 31). 17. Israel’s past and current prime ministers, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, are on record as stating the motivation behind the law is to maintain Israel’s Jewish majority (Human Rights Watch: Israel 2006). 18. These countries include Algeria, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and West Bank/Gaza Strip. 19. Al-Munajjed (2012) is the source for the information in the remainder of this paragraph.

9 Gender and Development Islah Jad

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), several factors affect people’s empowerment, particularly women’s empowerment. Foreign interventions, wars, poor governance, globalization, and uncertain economies have all exacerbated insecurity, massive displacement, and migration, impinging on basic rights for survival and development. Barriers to empowerment have relegated the MENA region to a position far behind others in terms of development, in spite of relatively high economic growth across countries (Benhadid 2003, 99). Countries in the MENA region are diverse but also share some common characteristics that set them apart from countries in the rest of the world. Not least among these is the small size of the economic contribution made by women. Although women’s educational achievements often exceed those of men (in the Gulf countries, women’s attainment is twice that of men’s), in most of the MENA countries women remain out of the labor force, and those who do work outside the home face a wide range of difficulties associated with their gender. Postindependence Arab states in the 1950s–1970s—especially Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Libya, and Sudan—followed the “developmentalist” state model, or state socialism. The goal was to hasten modernization by relying on state central planning and industrialization to increase productivity. The developmentalist state also adopted what is termed state feminism (Hatem 2000), which followed two—contradictory— paths. On the one hand, the state introduced important changes in favor of women, such as appointing women to decisionmaking bodies in the government and society; providing job opportunities, especially in the 153

154 Islah Jad state sector; and creating gender-friendly social policies that provided health care, education, and social entitlements. On the other hand, the state showed great hostility toward all forms of social and political organizations, including those for women. Women’s organizations were closely linked to the ruling parties, which recruited women to achieve the goals of the party and the state. Changes in the political elite, especially in Egypt, along with slow economic growth in most of the developmentalist states, accelerated economic reform policies that led to the gradual withdrawal of the state from the labor market, a reduction in public expenditures, trade liberalization, and privatization. The slow growth of the private sector and neglect of the public sector have resulted in slow job growth and high unemployment that have disproportionately affected youth and women (Karshenas, Moghadam, and Chamlou 2015, 24). The economic dependency ratio is high in the region. While the world economic dependency ratio is 1.7, in the MENA region it stands at 2.3, which means that every employed person supports an average of 2.3 persons (the highest in the world) (Karshenas, Moghadam, and Chamlou 2015, 25). Food and energy subsidies in the MENA region are also some of the highest in the world and have introduced major distortions in the economy. Many countries at similar income levels elsewhere in the world function with lower per capita public expenditures in health and education and deliver higher quality, simply because their households have dual or multiple income earners. By contrast, in the MENA region, a vicious cycle sustains family structures that make reforms difficult to initiate and encourages one-income families. Ultimately, labor force participation decisions are made within the household, and state policies are critical in the interaction between the family and the market. Part of the explanation for low rates of female economic activity lies in contradictory state policies. MENA region governments have sought to promote economic growth and development—goals for which progress in education and health is critically important. Here state policy has been consistent, and the female response has been commensurate and as expected. However, governments have also been keen to safeguard traditional cultural norms and male dominance, as reflected in discriminatory employment policies and conservative family laws. Here too, women’s response has been commensurate, with low rates of economic participation. Thus contradictory state policies are a crucial feature of the MENA region’s female ecomonic participation paradox (Karshenas, Moghadam, and Chamlou 2015, 27). Having so few women in the labor force imposes heavy costs

Gender and Development


on the countries in the region by limiting both the growth of their economies and their ability to improve their well-being and prosperity. Most MENA countries have no comprehensive gender development vision or integrated policies. Gender issues in the region have been advanced in a noncoordinated, silo fashion largely by international and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and women’s rights groups. This suggests a need for well-designed, comprehensive approaches to boost women’s economic opportunities and participation (Revenga and Shetty 2012, 23). Most Arab countries followed, and still follow, a Women in Development (WID) approach. In popular policy and planning as well as academic discourses, WID is associated with the wide range of activities concerning women in the development domain that donor agencies, governments, and NGOs have been involved in since the 1970s. The 1975 International Women’s Year World Conference in Mexico City and the United Nations Decade for Women (1976–1985) gave expression to the major preoccupations of women around the world: improved educational and employment opportunities, equality in political and social participation, and increased health and welfare services. In sum, the WID movement that emerged during this period demanded social justice and equity for women. The WID approach hinges on economic arguments about what women can contribute to the development process (Razavi and Miller 1995). WID arguments aim to provide a rationale for directing scarce development resources to women. By improving women’s access to technology and credit, women’s productivity would increase and impact positively on national development. One of the underlying assumptions of WID advocates is that the costs of investing in women’s productivity are justifiable in terms of economic as well as social returns. Another feature of WID advocacy is that it is selective in what it adopts from the dominant development paradigm, focusing for the most part on the productive work of poor women (productive employment) (Razavi and Miller 1995, 8). WID demands for productive employment were met with donor support for small-scale income-generating activities for women. The aim of these projects was to help poor women more effectively meet family needs by improving their capacity to earn an income through the production of marketable goods and services. Although WID advocates highlighted the importance of helping women upgrade their skills and gain access to credit in their capacity as economic providers for their families, many income-generating projects were very limited. In other words, their economic objectives were subverted into welfare action for

156 Islah Jad women during the process of implementation. Interventions designed to strengthen women’s productive roles were often redirected to developing women’s skills in nutrition or in traditional handicrafts. Hence, these women-only projects did little to overcome poor women’s economic marginalization. The impact of the early WID movement can be seen on two fronts: first, in terms of the discussions and research that it generated, and second, in the impetus it gave to the growth of institutional machineries within development agencies and governments, their mandate being to integrate women into development (Razavi and Miller 1995, 9). The WID approach has been criticized as a top-down process by state or donor agencies focused on restricting women’s actions to productive activities, which has led to their exclusion from major development projects and failed to take into account gender power relations. WID economic policies were geared toward profit and material growth without paying attention to women’s needs and experiences, providing women with financial means for microenterprises without assessing the impact of these policies and their ability to improve women’s economic situation. The Gender and Development (GAD) approach emerged in the late 1980s as an alternative designed to meet women’s needs and interests. It aims to highlight the causes of inequality between men and women while emphasizing that development cannot be achieved without women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is a result of women’s organizing to defend their own needs and interests through a bottom-up process of changing existing power and gender relations. This approach argues that current macroeconomics do not take into account the unpaid care work performed by women, including survival production, family care, and voluntary work in society. Traditional economists classify women’s unpaid work in the category of “social roles” and not among the productive activities to be included in national economic statistics. In the MENA region, many governments established mechanisms to direct small-scale development projects to women, providing some welfare services in the fields of health and education. At the same time, mainstream development policy continued to ignore women’s needs and interests in finding sustainable jobs or abolishing structural barriers to women’s presence in the labor market, as mentioned earlier. However, the GAD approach found resonance in some UN agencies that put pressure on Arab governments to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to report on the progress achieved in its implementation. Many

Gender and Development


studies and reports have been produced through UN funding or international aid organizations to research and document Arab women’s status on the different scales of development set by the UN, such as the Millennium Development Goals or the Sustainable Development Goals. However, no clear gender and development policy has been comprehensively applied in the MENA region. Some official national mechanisms or governmental institutions have been established with a particular mandate to advance gender equality at the national level. The extent to which these mechanisms have achieved that goal in the MENA region will be discussed in detail in this chapter. Providing Context The developmentalist state in the 1960s and 1970s sought to achieve selfreliance through increased productivity, industrialization, and internal trade. This approach was accompanied by distributive social policies that supported women and the poor. It opened important venues in publicsector companies that offered youth and women secure jobs and social entitlements. The reform policies of the 1980s and 1990s that relied on privatization, trade liberalization, and reduction in state expenditures led to the loss of those jobs in the public sector, which negatively affected youth and women. Job loss was not compensated due to the weak private sector, leaving women, youth, and the poor in a precarious situation that led to political unrest and instability. The following provides an overview of how each of these components of development policy has affected gender and development by state apparatuses or by local activism. Political Reform in the Arab World

Since the mid-1990s, Arab governments have embarked on a host of reform measures in the areas of freedom and good governance, most of which were overshadowed by other items on their ambitious agendas. A wave of elections has swept the region in the last ten years. In Iraq, for example, the transitional National Assembly elections in January 2005 and later in March 2010 took place amid a severe security breakdown and campaigns against candidates and voters. Nonetheless, the high participation of almost 70 percent of Iraqi voters during the 2005 elections indicates the desire of the Iraqi people to participate in shaping the future of their country.

158 Islah Jad Saudi Arabia saw municipal council elections held for the first time, a progressive step that was undermined by the exclusion of women and by restrictions on the proportion of council members chosen by election. In Egypt, Article 76 of the constitution was amended to permit multicandidate presidential elections. The amendment, however, arrived so fraught with restrictions that it seemed but a formalized codification of the existing referendum system for choosing the president. Some licensed opposition parties boycotted the subsequent presidential election, which produced a landslide victory for the incumbent. Its notable aspect was that, according to official statistics, the participation rate amounted to only one-fourth of those entitled to vote. Judges monitoring the subsequent parliamentary elections reported irregularities favoring ruling-party candidates in two major districts. Evidently, as the Arab Human Development Report (UNDP 2005) entitled “Towards the Rise of Women in the Arab World” noted, electoral reform in the region has some distance to cover before elections become a component of freedom and good governance. On the other hand, public freedoms in the region, especially those of opinion and expression, came under further pressure. The entire region suffers from serious restrictions on the freedom of the press. Only Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates permit freedom of internet use. “Many Arab countries continue to obstruct the work of civic bodies, independent professional associations, labour unions and human rights institutions. Many Arab governments have achieved notoriety for restricting freedom of expression in general and the use of the internet in particular” (UNDP 2005, 3–4). These limitations put institutionalized state bodies that act as national mechanisms for development in a precarious situation, since it is perceived that advocating for women’s rights is separate, or can be achieved separately, from seeking civil, political, and social rights for all citizens. The fact that most of these national mechanisms are controlled by state bureaucrats or members of the ruling elite sheds doubt on their ability or willingness to challenge state policies and interventions. Conflict, Foreign Occupation, and Other Challenges

War brings conflict-induced movement and trafficking (UNDP 2009b). Certainly, women have often borne the brunt of deteriorating humanitarian conditions—especially as conflict and wars have brought devastating impacts to their economies, societies, and institutions. The number of people who migrate due to conflict is significant. At the beginning of 2008, some 14 million refugees fell under the mandate of either the

Gender and Development


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), accounting for roughly 7 percent of all international migration. As of 2019, 57 percent of all refugees worldwide come from three countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and South Sudan (2.3 million).1 Even greater numbers of people who are displaced by violence and conflict relocate within the borders of their own countries—an estimated 26 million worldwide, of whom 7.7 million come from Sudan (4.9 million) and Iraq (2.8 million) alone (UNDP 2009b, 26). In 2015 the number of forcibly displaced worldwide jumped to 65.3 million, of whom 39 percent were from the Middle East and North Africa, mainly from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen (UNHCR 2015). The Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 led to the displacement of one-third of the civilian population and to the destruction of thousands of houses. The same applied in the 2008–2009 war on Gaza, in which 23 percent of the houses in the Gaza Strip were partially or fully destroyed (UNHRC 2009). Wars and conflict seriously challenge all efforts for development and affect the work of national mechanisms as they struggle to meet large-scale devastation with limited human capacity and resources. Wars and conflict make issues related to gender equality appear out of context and irrelevant. In Iraq, the rising human costs of occupation became clear in a context of growing lawlessness and internal conflict. Material damage inflicted on Iraq under the US occupation extended to its assets, including oil resources and a cultural heritage that belongs to humankind (UNDP 2005). Wars, economic siege, and destruction in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Sudan, and now Libya and Yemen, have hampered the work of their national mechanisms, which were left with no resources and large-scale humanitarian devastation (ESCWA 2009a). Similarly, internal armed conflicts are another theater of serious human rights abuses, with women being especially vulnerable to rape and murder, not only under military assaults but also during flight and emigration. The “war on terror” has put national mechanisms in a difficult situation. To oppose this war puts them against their own governments; to support it amounts to endorsing grave violations of civic, political, and social rights, not only of the suspected terrorists but also of their women relatives and the rest of their families (Sinai in Egypt, for example). Ironically, the war on terror has been accompanied by a call to “liberate Muslim women,” which dilutes the genuine efforts made by many indigenous women’s organizations and national mechanisms to advance women’s rights and interests.

160 Islah Jad The Influence of Economic Policies

The Arab Human Development Report (UNDP 2005) showed that the general context in which national mechanisms operate differs based on the socioeconomic circumstances of the various countries that constitute the Arab world. Hence, variance could be observed between oil-rich countries compared to middle-income and least developed countries. For example, in middle-income countries the economic, political, social, cultural, and institutional contexts are, in general, more developed when it comes to women’s roles and activism compared to other countries. The institutional reforms required by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund led to a drastic decline in social services. This in turn affected outreach to rural areas and led to growing social gaps between urban and rural areas and between middle and lower urban classes. It also led to growing social protest that led and fed many forms of Islamic movements in the region (Jad 2005; UNDP 2005, 2009a). In addition, the roles and voices of women were negatively influenced in countries that had to go through structural adjustment processes that resulted in the dissolution of most state-sector enterprises and left deep imprints on the extent and level of social services, which has affected the population at large and women in particular (in Egypt, Iraq, and Libya, for example). Many women’s organizations as well as national mechanisms have thus taken up poverty reduction as a strategy, with a focus on microcredit schemes. Two decades of economic liberalization and the acceleration of privatization culminated in increasing social disparities and poverty, accompanied by political resentment and contestation. Since 2011—the Arab Spring—social movements and riots have protested the continuous decline in the quality of food, water, and medication. This situation has left many national mechanisms with serious challenges and debates about the best ways to deal with deepening poverty as well as growing authoritarianism and political repression (UNDP 2009a). Civil Society and Opposition Movements

In many countries, Arab civil society organizations took on a higher profile, thrusting themselves into public space with increasing vigor and impact. Adopting firm positions through the independent press, on satellite television, at public rallies, in private meetings, and over the internet, they expressed close solidarity with political movements and at times demonstrated the ability to take the lead in spurring political change (as in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Lebanon). Since 2011, civic

Gender and Development


action in the region has been distinguished by a growing pluralism and enlarged internet presence, testifying to a new assertiveness and sense of public mission in civil society. However, these waves of protest have not resulted in crucial political, economic, or social change. Instead they have led in most Arab countries to the consolidation of a new form of authoritarianism and more control of the army over all aspects of civil life (as in Egypt and Libya, for example, with the exception of Tunisia, which is still struggling to establish its democracy). In some Arab countries, national mechanisms managed to develop a relationship of trust with these groups (Tunisia, for example), while in many other countries, relations were limited by the political stand of the government vis-à-vis these organizations, leaving national mechanisms with weak or nonexistent popular support. Most of these mainstream movements are witnessing noticeable growth among their relatively younger generations, at the moment that these younger generations are increasingly appearing at the top of their organizational hierarchies. In addition, there is growing activity from the grassroots demanding greater internal democracy (UNDP 2005). The Islamic movements in the region cover a wide spectrum, with much internal variation. The great majority of Islamic movements in Arab countries represent widespread societal forces and have deep popular roots as a result of their practice over many years of social and political action among ordinary people. In general, most of the mainstream Islamic movements hold conservative views regarding women’s rights and gender equality and have shown hostility toward universal mechanisms for women’s rights, such as CEDAW or the Beijing Platform for Action. However, many have experienced important developments over the past two decades with regard to their stance on certain societal issues, such as respect for human rights, good governance, and democracy (Hudson 1996). These positive developments, however, do not mean that mainstream Islamic currents have eliminated all concerns regarding other societal forces in Arab countries and the negative impact they might have on freedom and good governance should they come to power, especially with regard to the issues of women and minorities. From the early 1990s, the liberalization process, with its neoliberal tendencies, encouraged and financed the mushrooming of “autonomous” women’s and human rights NGOs. These organizations proved somewhat effective in raising people’s and politicians’ consciousness of gender equality issues, but they showed little ability to form a “hegemonic bloc” in civil society. Many studies have shown the limitations of the NGO structure to mobilize and organize large constituencies of women (Jad 2004, 2007). NGOs, for the most part, do not act as catalysts for social

162 Islah Jad and political movements but rather tend to “own” what they implement. They perceive issues for social and political change as “projects” with limited life cycles, “target groups,” and measurable achievements. One report of Arab women’s movements showed that NGOs have had a negative impact on women’s movements by encouraging more “professionalization” instead of voluntarism, and more dependence on proposal writing and foreign funding than reliance on mobilization of local resources (Jad 2004, 2007). In the face of the well-mobilized and well-organized conservative movements, NGO activism has demonstrated little ability to form a counterhegemonic power, as shown in Egypt, for example, after the protests of 2011. In Egypt, while many organizations managed to mobilize a large number of people to the streets, their ability to sustain this mobilization was limited, and they limited their activism and activities after the crackdown of the military coup. It is worth noting, however, that NGO activism has helped to popularize and legitimize gender issues and to put them on the agendas of political leaders, parliamentarians, and human rights activists. Some human rights and anti-torture NGOs moved toward building social and political movements (for example, the Kefaya movement in Egypt). Some others seek to enlarge their power by establishing regional coalitions (for example, SAWA [“Together” in Arabic], and Amman [“Safety” in Arabic] coalitions based in Jordan) to fight domestic violence, and the Family Law coalition (in Tunisia and Egypt). Many of these coalitions bring together women’s organizations across the MENA region. The MENA Region’s Impact on National Mechanisms

National mechanisms for gender equality in oil-rich countries operate differently than in non-oil-rich Arab countries. In the former, governments provide impressive social services in health, education, and social policy. Still, structures in most of these countries remain weak, embryonic, and intertwined with kinship and tribal relations (Al-Rasheed 2002; ESCWA 2014; Salame 2001). These new national mechanisms, born from within such structures that adopt a top-down approach to development, are heavily dependent on the state (ESCWA 2009a). This dependency sometimes fuels opposition within civil society, which views the state’s reform attempts as driven by Western interference and influence. For example, a 2005 UN Economic and Social Commission (ESCWA) report on women’s movements in the region showed that women’s movements in the newly oil-rich countries are nascent and weak compared to those in countries with well-established national structures. However, the top-down approach followed by the Gulf states has in fact led to some

Gender and Development


important improvements in women’s conditions. These have occurred in important fields such as health, education, employment, and participation in decisionmaking. The same can be said of older states in which a form of state feminism introduced important political, economic, and social changes in women’s lives, despite hostility from the state. Despite the differences among the countries of the region, there exist some important underlying commonalities affecting the human rights environment. These include the region-wide embrace of economic liberalization, high levels of consumerism with low levels of productivity, authoritarianism, and lack of the rule of law. Each of these also negatively affects basic civil, political, and human rights (Hudson 1996; UNDP 2005). In the coming years, stagnant economies and the staying power of Islamic political opposition movements might well lead to deepening states of emergency in many Arab countries and increasing restrictions on freedom of speech and organization, as happened, for example, in Egypt after the military coup on July 3, 2013, against the Islamic president elected in 2012. In the majority of MENA countries, managing social and political protest became a priority and resulted in continuous increases in “security” budgets (UNDP 2005). This left few resources for other development sectors, including national mechanisms, to implement their plans and programs. Progress Toward Overcoming Challenges in Human Development

Over the past decade, some positive steps have been taken to broaden the margins of freedom in the region. Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights issued its first annual report (2004–2005), which highlighted some of the most serious human rights violations in the country and called for an end to the state of emergency. Jordan’s National Center for Human Rights also published its first annual report. Bahrain issued a decree requiring that democracy and human rights be taught in the country’s schools; and in the United Arab Emirates, a human rights association was formed. Morocco’s efforts to purge a long history of oppression moved forward when its Justice and Reconciliation Commission submitted its final report proposing legal, institutional, and cultural reforms. The president of Algeria announced a similar initiative promoting national reconciliation in his country. The Palestinian Authority, under US and Israeli pressure, postponed the discussion of the UN fact-finding mission (known as the Goldstone Report). The mission documented the war crimes, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity, committed

164 Islah Jad against Gaza by the Israeli army in December 2008–January 2009. The Arab Commission for Human Rights managed, for the first time in the history of human rights organizations in the region, to mount strong popular pressure on the Palestinian Authority to reverse its decision and submit the report to a public hearing and a vote of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2009 (UN News 2009). The growing momentum of human rights organizations and popular movements helps in creating a supportive environment for women’s rights and gender equality. However, setbacks after the Arab Spring have threatened most of these achievements and put on hold most of the efforts for gender equality in development (in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, for example). All of these examples illustrate the importance of context for the degree to which national mechanisms operate. Examination of context must include factors such as political will, national resources, human capacity, organization and strength of women’s movements, in addition to the general status of women (education, health, legislation, work, and political participation). Whether the state is involved in some form of conflict is another vital factor influencing whether it will be able to pursue gender equality and women’s rights. Countries involved in wars and other conflicts are typically characterized by low or stagnant economic growth, political instability, and the regression of almost all achieved gains for women (in health, education, employment, and legal and political rights) (UNDP 2003, 2004, 2006). The mechanisms for the advancement of women in war zones show continual shifts in policy focus and weak ability to effect sustainable change. Palestine is an example of this: whenever there is some political stability, national mechanisms promoting gender equality come to the fore, but when violence and conflict resume, meeting basic or emergency needs takes precedence. Challenges to Development, Women’s Empowerment, and Gender Equality It is important to evaluate realistically the abilities of each Arab state to implement development plans and to achieve lasting social change. A state is not a monolithic entity, and its internal conflicts and contestation might open up some spaces for feminists to maneuver and effectuate change. But many aspects of a state, such as its degree of legitimacy and political will, must be kept in mind as one examines the structures to which national mechanisms for gender equality are subordinated. Nor can the nature and internal workings of a state be separated from the fact that most Arab civil societies seem more conservative than

Gender and Development


their governments (UNDP 2004). Civil societies in the MENA region are arenas for contestation and/or consolidation of state power. Struggles for women’s rights and attempts at legal reform in the region mirror this government-society dynamic. An attempt to reform the family law in Morocco unleashed hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the streets. Conservative movements in the region have proved to be efficient in mobilizing impressive numbers of people to obstruct legal reform. Political, social, and cultural resistance from conservative groups has managed to mobilize large numbers of women, represent serious challenges to national mechanisms for gender equality, and put in doubt their ability to meet common needs and map out strategies for their constituencies. Gender equality measures are met with strong resistance from civil society and in some cases from within the parliament. This well-organized opposition is met by weak and fragmented women’s movements. Two decades of “state feminism” in some of the Arab countries contributed to this weakening. Interventionist and developmentalist states showed hostilities vis-à-vis women’s autonomous organizations, and even banned some of them. Some others “incorporated” women’s organizations into the state structure or into their ruling parties. Important contextual features affecting the national mechanisms for gender equality in the MENA region can be summarized as follows: 1. Low productivity and slow economic growth in highly populated countries; 2. Unrealized development led by developmentalist, interventionist states through state feminism; 3. Declining public employment opportunities, increasing social gaps, and social rioting following the application of liberalization and structural adjustment policies; 4. Devastation of some countries in the region due to wars and other conflicts; 5. Delegitimization of the development efforts undertaken by some Arab governments due to international aid accompanied by political conditions; 6. Strong conservative movements empowered by state authoritarianism and lack of liberties; 7. Either empowerment or disempowerment of national mechanisms for gender equality, depending on the nature of the Arab state; and 8. The weakness of social movements that have gender equality as a strategic goal.

166 Islah Jad The Establishment of National Mechanisms to Support Gender Equality I now turn to a discussion of the specifics of the trajectories and contemporary trends of national mechanisms. These mechanisms differ in their raisons d’être, political support, sustainability, and level of resistance to their presence in each country. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that national mechanisms as a term involves both official mechanisms established with a particular mandate to advance the women’s agenda at the national level and other mechanisms established for a particular setting or to deliver a particular task. Developmentalist states adopted national mechanisms in the postcolonial era to implement what is known as state feminism. These early mechanisms took the form of a directorate, a division, or unions under the control of specific ministries (e.g., family, childhood, and social affairs). For example, a woman-headed Ministry of Social Affairs was established in Egypt in 1956, Iraq in 1950, and Algeria in 1962 (UNDP 2005). In the 1970s, Egypt established a Women’s Affairs Directorate inside the Ministry of Social Affairs. In Syria, the General Union of Women was established in 1967 as part of the executive and legislative authority under the Ba’ath Party. In the nascent states of the Gulf, women’s issues were of late interest to the governments. The first women’s union was founded in the United Arab Emirates in 1976. State feminism effectively emphasized the traditional view toward women as mothers who care for the children, the elderly, and the destitute. Developmentalist states were commonly hostile toward autonomous women’s organizations and movements, a stance that weakened many of the women’s movements that emerged beginning in the first half of the twentieth century, in support of national independence movements. The co-optation of women’s movements by these states caused national mechanisms that emerged later to receive only weak support from civil society at international women’s conferences. State feminism did, however, achieve important gains for women in education, health, civil services and social entitlements and in the labor market. A great number of women concerned with these issues were brought into the public sphere in economic and political life. The second wave of national mechanisms emerged in response to international women’s conferences, beginning with the first UNsponsored World Conference on Women in 1975 held in Mexico. Countries such as Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Lebanon are a case in point. In 1977 the Jordanian Ministry of Labor established a Women’s Department as a demonstration of the Women in Development approach. In

Gender and Development


Morocco, a central unit in the ministerial department in charge of social affairs served to advance the interests of women. In 1989 Libya established the Department of Women’s Affairs as part of the secretariat of the General People’s Congress, the national legislative body. In the same year, the Libyan government also established the General Union of Women’s Associations as a network of nongovernmental organizations that address women’s employment needs. In 1996, in Algeria, the government established the Agency for Social Development, which implemented programs to help vulnerable groups, including women and girls without income, and families with limited resources who were caring for handicapped members. By the mid-1990s, a third wave of national mechanisms emerged as the WID approach evolved into gender mainstreaming that led to the diversification and multiplicity of national mechanisms. Such diversification spelled out the objective of mainstreaming gender perspectives in development plans to empower women in all spheres of life. In preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women, Jordan established the Jordanian National Commission for Women in 1993. In the same year, a National Committee for Women was established in Egypt within the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood. This committee in turn became a more focused mechanism known as the National Council for Women in 2000. In Syria, a national committee was established in 1994 by the Cabinet of Ministers but was abolished one year later to reemerge in a different form in 2004 as the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs. In Yemen, a national committee was formed in 1996, followed by Qatar, which formed a council for family affairs in 1998 to which other mechanisms were added from different government ministries and civil society. The same trend was found in other Gulf countries such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman (ESCWA 2009b). The mainstreaming approach pushed some national mechanisms to change their priorities without having developed a solid foundation in their previous structures and priorities. Hence, in many national experiences there are attempts to entrust national committees or networks with the task of gender mainstreaming. In Palestine, for example, a trend of developing a gender mainstreaming agenda in its public institutions can be observed, where an Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Advancement of Women’s Status (referred to as IMCAW) was established in 1994 and acted as a network for Palestinian women in the task of gender mainstreaming. IMCAW managed to establish gender units in many ministries, culminating in the 2003 establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. By 2009, the Palestinian national mechanisms increased to

168 Islah Jad eighteen gender units in discrete ministries in addition to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs as a leading body. A similar trend can be seen in Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. (See Table 9.1 on the number of national mechanisms in the region.) Furthermore, there has been a growing trend in the region toward forming special commissions or networks to deal with a particular issue that needs more popular and political power. The formation of commissions enabled national mechanisms in the region to deal with some sensitive issues, including sexual and domestic violence such as honor killings, female circumcision, trafficking in women, and prostitution. In Palestine, a national commission with the representation of discrete ministries, women’s NGOs, and the General Union for Palestinian Women was formed in 2008 to address violence against women. The national commission concretely implemented its principles by producing a strategic national plan to fight violence against women (ESCWA 2009a). The same trend was found in almost all the countries in the region, including Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, and Algeria, among others. In Jordan, for example, a national network was established to deal with issues such as UN Security Council Reso-

Table 9.1 Leadership of Top National Mechanisms


Egypt Jordan United Arab Emirates Qatar Syria Kuwait Bahrain Oman Lebanon Algeria Palestine Iraq Yemen Morocco Tunisia Sudan Total first ladies Total ministers

Source: ESCWA 2009a.


First lady First lady First lady First lady First lady (honorary) First lady First lady No national mechanism First lady Minister Minister Minister Minister Minister Minister Minister 8 (53%) 7 (46%)

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lution 1325 (to protect women in war areas and enhance women’s participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding). Gulf oil countries, on the other hand, responded to the issue of domestic violence against women and children by designating special sections in hospitals, police stations, and shelters to host battered women and children. Broadening the mandate of national mechanisms in the region has been an important developing trend. Some not only managed to extend their mandate within the central governmental bodies but they also used the same government structures to extend their mandate to the local level of governorates, provinces, and departments. Sudan’s Ministry for Social Care, Women and Child Affairs, which is the national mechanism, established gender directorates in many provinces in the country. The same occurred in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine. Ratifying international conventions such as CEDAW constituted another trend among Arab national mechanisms. These conventions constituted a solid legal reference for these mechanisms to claim equal rights for women in all spheres of life. Many Arab national mechanisms achieved some important legal reforms dealing with women’s nationality, equal rights to work, political participation, and fighting domestic violence, among many others. Despite having made significant strides in incorporating women’s and gender issues into all facets of life, the Arab judicial system still lags behind. Although in many Arab countries there is an increase in the role of women in the judiciary, very limited efforts were made to sensitize the judicial structures to gender issues. Similarly, women’s caucuses in the parliaments barely exist—albeit there are two committees on women and children—in the Consultative Council of Bahrain and in the Lebanese Parliament. The near-total absence of gender units in the few national human rights institutions and/or ombuds offices (with the exception of Tunisia) that exist in the region (in Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and Palestine) minimized the impact of these institutions on women’s equal rights (ESCWA 2009a, 2009b). Despite the diversity and multiplicity of national mechanisms, the traditional linkages to motherhood and childhood prevail. Women are first and foremost individuals in their own right but are perceived as family members whose protection and guidance are accorded to male relatives. This has meant a compromise on both sides in order to move forward. The Women’s Committee in Egypt, until 1999, was put under the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood to show that women were more valued as mothers and caretakers of families. This view has not changed much today: the National Council for Women and

170 Islah Jad the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood are two institutions that are reminders of the childbearing role accorded to women. In spite of this conservative approach, the political instability in Egypt that followed the end of the Mubarak era threatened the existence of these bodies, which many Egyptians saw as the arms of Mubarak’s wife (Suzanne) to sustain her grip on power. Thus, the National Council for Women witnessed a reshuffle, and some of the staff moved to the Ministry of Housing. The reshuffle of the Council did not lead to more independence from the government’s grip. On the contrary, the Council appeared, especially after the military coup, as one of the government arms to dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The Council now depicted it as a terrorist organization and accused the Brotherhood of using women in violent university protests, while also criticizing the Brotherhood’s “degradation of women” (Abdel Rahim and Fracolli 2016). Other Arab countries echo Egypt’s national plans toward women. In Syria, the main national mechanism for women is the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs. In Morocco, the leading women’s mechanism is called the Secretariat of State for Family, Childhood, and Handicapped Persons (MCF). It is noteworthy to mention that the Maghreb countries installed mechanisms that deal not only with women’s and gender issues but also with children and disabled people. Following Morocco’s last legislative elections, the Secretariat of State for Family, Childhood, and Handicapped Persons replaced the MCF. This new secretariat is under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity. In Tunisia, the mission of the Ministry of Women’s and Family Affairs (MAFF) was to promote the status and situation of women and the family. MAFF was also allocated responsibility for children and elderly persons and in 2004 became the Ministry of the Affairs of Women, Family, Children, and Elderly Persons. In Algeria, the national mechanism is in charge of the family and women’s status. The government approved the establishment of the National Consultative Council of the Family and Women in November 2006. The consultative council will support the work of the Minister Delegate Charged with the Family and Women’s Status by developing a database and documentation on the family and women’s issues, carrying out studies and research, strengthening partnerships and coordination with civil society, and initiating relationships with international institutions working on the promotion of women. In Sudan, the Ministry for Social Care, Women and Child Affairs was established in 2005. The situation is similar in the Gulf countries, where Qatar formed the Higher Council for Family Affairs in 1998 (although this was later abolished by the government). The United Arab Emirates followed suit

Gender and Development


by establishing the Family and Development Society in 2006. Kuwait also established a Women’s Affairs Commission in 2003. In the Gulf region, most of the national mechanisms were created to represent women in regional and international conferences. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, a gender desk is located in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help the ministry in drafting the needed reports for international organizations on gender issues. It is worth noting that in the Gulf there are severe restrictions on independent NGOs, thus all “nongovernmental” organizations are actually governmental. These organizations are run by women from the ruling elite, or those closely connected to it, and funded by the government. They contact international organizations such as UN Women and ESCWA as civil society organizations, while in fact they work under governmental supervision and funding. In the rest of the Arab countries, nongovernmental organizations are usually funded by international donors, and governments are often hostile to their activities and the source of their funding. (Further information on the leadership of Arab national mechanisms is available in Table 9.1.) One key feature of national mechanisms in the Arab world is the involvement of first ladies or the ruling elite in chairing these entities. In many cases, this has provided the national mechanisms with strong political support on issues raised on the advancement of women. On other occasions, this leadership is criticized on various grounds, including claims of patronizing attitudes and the need of governments to improve the external political image of their regimes rather than having a serious concern for women’s advancement. Having placed women’s and gender equality mechanisms under the tutelage of the first ladies brought the nascent women’s activism and organizations in civil society under their control. In fact, (until 2010) first ladies presided over eight of fifteen national mechanisms in the region, representing more than 53 percent of all national councils in the region (see Table 9.1). At the international level, the Beijing Conference was a crucial turning point that gradually led to the broadening of the mandates of existing national mechanisms and their scope of work. Another important evolution was the growing regional coordination among the national mechanisms. For instance, the General Secretaries of the Arab League have been playing an important role in the last few years in empowering Arab national mechanisms by issuing the Encyclopedia of Women’s Status in Arab Legislation as a legal reference document for legal reform. It also issued the Arab strategy on family, a regional plan to develop education, and declared 2008–2018 as the Arab decade for education. The organization has recently been working on an Arab strategy for female literacy,

172 Islah Jad an Arab strategy to fight violence against women, and a regional strategy for the protection of Arab women in security and peace (ESCWA 2009a). The Arab Woman’s Organization is another regional entity managing resources and coordination of work in the fields of legal reform, media strategy for Arab women, protection of women from violence, and development of tools such as an electronic database, the Arab women’s electronic library, an Arab women’s guide, a database on migrant Arab women, as well as the development of qualitative and quantitative measures for the implementation of CEDAW (ESCWA 2009a). The overall trend in most countries has been to establish a leading national mechanism in the form of a national council (Egypt) or commission (Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon) that derives its legitimacy and power from the president or king through a presidential decree and/or the role of the first lady (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain). Conclusion Even though the WID approach helped create some form of women’s representation in units, departments, commissions, and national committees, it also represented a setback for women’s rights and gender issues. The WID approach worked to isolate women’s needs from mainstream development planning. In contrast to this, the era of state feminism looked at women as integral to the success of the development plans and the achievements of its modernization projects. The general trend for the development and evolution of national mechanisms in the Arab region is toward an increase in their numbers, broadening of their mandates, more cooperation and coordination with civil society organizations, and more regional coordination and collaboration. However, national mechanisms for gender issues in the region mostly reside at the executive level of their states and to a much lesser extent at the legislative and judicial levels. They showed little power in influencing state policies toward mainstreaming gender in development projects, and in many cases they work as the state’s arm among women, showing hostility toward autonomous women’s organizations in civil society. Note 1. UNHCR, “Figures at a Glance,” .html, accessed August 21, 2019.

10 Gender and Migration Alexandra Parrs

As Zygmunt Bauman (1998) has noted, access to global mobility is becoming one of the most important factors in social stratification. Indeed, population movements affect the meaning of national belonging, ethnic and racial identifications, and political, social, and economic processes. Global mobility is also increasingly becoming a gendered process and, as such, impacts gender relations, the gendered division of labor, and gendered institutions like the family. These outcomes are particularly salient in the Middle East and North Africa where, traditionally, migrants were male laborers who temporarily left their families behind in search of better economic opportunities. Gender relations were undoubtedly affected by that type of male migration, which sometimes challenged patriarchal structures by potentially empowering females and making them de facto heads of households who had to deal with traditionally masculine practices involving leadership and the management of finances. However, there is no single model of migration anymore, and for the past thirty years, we have witnessed a striking increase in female migration from and to the Middle East and North Africa. Females are migrating, often alone, and often to engage in domestic work, sometimes leaving their families behind to care for others’ families. That pattern has disrupted the classic gendered division of labor and the structures of both immigrant families and receiving families. These observations raise a plethora of crucial questions: How does migration transform gender relations? How do variables such as social class, social capital, legal status in receiving countries, and marginalization or exclusion in both sending and receiving countries impact the 173

174 Alexandra Parrs experience of migrants and the society as a whole? How is it possible to be from here and from there at the same time? Is transnationalism a viable situation in the long term? How do international movements and their prolongation influence the narrative of national identity often embodied in women’s positions, in both complex kin networks and attributes of citizenship? In this chapter, I review different aspects of migration within, from, and to the Arab region, and examine the impact of financial and social remittances as well as the challenges to patriarchal structures brought about by migration within, from, and to that region. I also look at the state of asylum seeking and refugeeness, specifically for women. I present data from empirical studies that highlight recent trends in the area of gender and migration, such as the impact migration has on socialization, education, family formation, and women’s empowerment in general, but also present more theoretical debates about new practices and meanings created by migratory movements. Migrant Domestic Workers Perhaps one of the most striking characteristics of female migration in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the prevalence of migrant domestic workers. There is a breadth of literature that focuses on this phenomenon for a variety of reasons. First, domestic work is the single most important category of employment among migrant women in the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),1 as well as in Jordan and Lebanon. The number of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) is estimated at 1.6 million and accounts for 17.9 percent of all migrant workers in the region (ILO 2016). Second, abuses incurred by migrant domestic workers are often reported in international media because of their brutal and sensationalist aspects. As of the early 2000s, the percentage of MDWs had doubled or tripled in most GCC countries compared to the mid-1970s and early 1980s. The increase has been particularly acute in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where the percentage of women migrants is five to seven times larger than in the mid-1970s and early 1980s (ILO 2004). The sharp rise of oil prices in the 1970s and the rapid increase of wealth in oil-exporting countries prompted the intensification of labor migration in the direction of the GCC. Until the 1980s, migration to the GCC was largely male dominated, but the trend started to change in the 1990s, initially led by female teachers migrating to the Gulf to teach girls in the region’s segregated school system. They came largely from other Arab

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countries, and most were Palestinian, Syrian, or Egyptian (Moors and de Regt 2008). By the 2000s, domestic workers constituted the largest cohort of female migrants to the Gulf, increasingly originating from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Ethiopia. More recently, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Madagascar have emerged as new (and more affordable) countries of origin from which to employ domestic workers. Domestic workers also migrate to countries with new middle classes, such as Lebanon and Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. Interestingly, “maids” in Lebanon2 had historically been young girls from the countryside who left to live in urban environments with a family who symbolically adopted them and treated them as their working daughters. That trend has largely disappeared, and middle-class families have started to hire non-Lebanese domestic workers, mostly from Southeast Asia, perhaps as a sign of prestige. In Egypt, for instance, the hierarchy of domestic work is often organized according to race and class: while upper-class families prefer to employ Asian women, middle-class families prefer to employ South Asian or African domestic workers who are generally paid less (Fernandes and de Regt 2014). Migrant domestic workers from Asia are also often perceived as more submissive, and because of their condition as non-nationals, they are also more vulnerable. This phenomenon is not uniformly present across MENA countries, however; countries from the Maghreb typically display low rates of immigration by domestic workers as domestics traditionally originate from rural areas or the urban underclass in those countries. MDWs in the Middle East and North Africa constitute not only a very vulnerable but also a largely unprotected segment of the population. In theory, working as a domestic worker could in some instances confer flexibility and agency to women who engage in the trade, particularly when acting as what scholars call “freelancers” (ILO 2004; Jureidini and Moukarbel 2004; Moors and de Regt 2008)—individuals who choose how they want to structure their work in terms of quantity, type of work, and number of employers. However, in most Arab countries the very structure of domestic work largely prevents freelancers from functioning. The obstacles are both legal and cultural. Legally, in many countries, particularly the Gulf countries, the MDW must be sponsored by a kafil, someone who acts as a gatekeeper and manages every aspect of the worker’s life, from confiscating her passport to handling her movements, including taking her back to the airport upon termination (voluntary or not) of her contract. The kafala system has come under scrutiny recently, not only because it enables abuses of migrant workers who are stripped of their most basic rights and kept in a state of extreme vulnerability, but also because the system itself is corrupted and kafils

176 Alexandra Parrs abuse their position of power. Despite attempts to change it, the system remains in place, as it is perceived as the ultimate protective mechanism against the perceived hordes of uncontrolled migrants—a threat to the fragile Khaleeji (Gulf Arab) identity. MDWs’ vulnerability is also triggered by their irregular status, which takes away opportunities for them to challenge their employers or make demands for labor rights. The consensus seems to be “what happens in the home stays in the home,” and current labor laws in most Arab League states3 do not cover female MDWs, an exemption largely due to the private nature of housework. “‘House workers are to be treated as part of the family,’ said a Ministry of Labour spokesman from Bahrain, ‘or else the privacy of the household is desecrated’” (ILO 2004, 17). It almost appears inconceivable to regulate domestic work without violating the homes of the employers (Blackett 2011). As a result, not only is domestic work unregulated, but more symbolically, it is not recognized as “real work.” Many countries are revisiting their current laws on domestic work as a result of, in some instances, resistance movements organized by the domestic workers themselves, as in 2015 in Lebanon, where a domestic workers’ union was founded on January 25, the first in the country—and in the region. Aside from the legal barriers there exists an additional cultural barrier: the nature of domestic work translates into informality. The home of the employer becomes a space where the worker is both living and working. Boundaries between the two activities are blurred, and the worker is not treated as an employee with basic rights. By de facto becoming “one of the family,” domestic workers also lose some of their agency as independent individuals, though never fully belonging to their artificially reconstructed family, in which they are arguably merely a commodity. Scholarly literature as well as the media and reports produced by various development agencies have documented the abuses MDWs endure at every stage of the process. Brokers set up systems that keep workers in debt bondage, withdraw their passports, abuse them physically, or threaten to hurt their families back home, and employers may engage in physical and psychological violence or other forms of power abuse such as keeping their passports, restraining their movements, or delaying their salaries (ILO 2016). The abuses are also institutional, and many irregular workers face difficulties leaving the country of migration due to strict exit policies. They are often asked to pay fines for each day they have spent in the country irregularly and can end up in detention centers. These structural practices are important because, as noted by Moors and de Regt (2008), whereas the irregular migration

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of women is often equated with trafficking or prostitution, paid domestic labor is another—often ignored—sector where irregularity, gender, and subjugation come together. Pande (2012) also notes the inadequacy of the reports by international organizations that often focus too heavily on isolated cases of suicide, violence against domestic workers, and the “madam-maid” relationship. Such focus confines domestic work to the private sphere and to dysfunctional individual relations, absolving the state of its responsibility toward MDWs as well as avoiding challenges to the structure of unequal power relations. Scholars are also looking at the experiences of migrant domestic workers beyond human rights violations to examine how these migrating females experience and bring about profound transformations in their worlds and the places to which they go. Such migrants challenge the concept of home and the boundaries between private and public worlds, particularly the artificial construction and designation of one world to be feminine (the private) and the other one masculine (the public). The concept of home, for instance, is paradoxically constructed both as a place of privacy where the state chooses not to intervene and as a place where the MDW herself has no privacy. Often, MDWs barely have a room in the home of their employers and find more intimacy in public spheres than they would in their temporary home. As Moors et al. (2009, 157) point out, “In order to find privacy, domestic workers have to leave the employer’s home and move into the public.” They occupy different spaces in their destination countries: parks, shopping malls, restaurants, or churches. For example, the evangelical community of born-again Christians in Dubai provides a “new home away from home” for Filipina workers (Hosoda and Watanabe 2014), and Ethiopian workers find a home in the Ethiopian Orthodox and Pentecostal churches in Beirut (Fernandez and de Regt 2014). Other studies have shown how domestic workers have appropriated semipublic spaces such as balconies (Moukarbel 2009; Pande 2012) that become their own spaces and a place to interact with other domestics. Balconies become spaces where women consult each other on the various abuses they endure. Pande describes balconies as places of a meso level of resistance, situated between the private (individual and symbolic) and the public (overt and organized), both spaces largely inaccessible to MDWs: “The balcony transforms from a marginal space assigned to restricted live-ins to an avenue for forging strategic dyads with workers in the neighboring balconies” (2012, 394). Along with those reconfigurations of the public and private, the experience of migrant domestic workers also engenders a reconfiguration of the meanings of home and family. Migrant domestic workers

178 Alexandra Parrs have often left their own children back home in order to take care of the children of others. They have abandoned their own intimacy to penetrate the intimacy of others. In the context of a global economy, scholars (Nakano Glenn 1992; Parreñas 2000; Sassen 1984, 1988) have looked at the commodification of reproductive work and the contradictions inherent in domestic workers’ experiences, as they leave their existing families to care for others. According to Nakano Glenn (1992, 30), class-privileged women free themselves of the “mental, emotional, and manual labor” needed for “the creation and recreation of people as cultural and social, as well as physical beings” by hiring low-paid women of color. Parreñas talks about the “international transfer of care-taking” (2000, 561), and Ehrenreich and Hochschild of “care drain” (2002, 17). The process of commodification is also tangible in the motherchildren relationship. Gamburd (2008) examines how transnational migration from Sri Lanka to the Gulf affects and is affected by gender roles, kinship relations, intergenerational obligations, and ideologies of parenthood. She shows that when mothers migrate and leave their children in the hands of their husbands or relatives, their main connection to their family becomes a financial one. She then challenges media claims that children suffer from the absence of their mothers, constructed in general as the essentialized caregivers. Their long-term absences nonetheless reorganize and disrupt widely accepted gendered attributions of parenting roles. Her study contributes to deconstructing the idea of the female as a quintessential mother, whose role, both as a mother and as a woman, can be reconstructed in and after migration. This deconstruction and ensuing reconstructions are challenging the concept of family, often reified into a place of natural roles of nurturing females and breadwinning males, while it is in reality the domicile of changing practices and meanings. Despite these unequal power relations, MDWs can also display agency. They set up strategies and organize, creating complex support networks with other women and caregivers back home to look after their children (Peng and Wong 2013). Migrating women also tend to control their own reproductive agenda, facing dilemmas confronting cultural norms and economic arrangements, and they bring home both financial and social remittances, new practices, and new roles—as the prevalent breadwinners. Transnational migration has clearly affected local conceptions of motherhood and gender relations in parenting, not only via a commodification of the relations between mothers and children but also by a change in household duties (Gamburd 2008; Parreñas 2000). Further, migrant domestic workers leave not only their homes but also their countries, which is a challenge both to their families and to

Gender and Migration


their nations of origin. In many of the sending countries, women are seen as needing protection, and in many of the nationalist narratives that follow, they are stuck in roles of guardians and transmitters of ethnocultural purity that suit patriarchal purposes (Chatterjee 1989). They embody the nation and the nation is somehow transmitted through their bodies, which can translate into their remaining within national boundaries or otherwise disrupting collective stability. Some states do try to limit female emigration, while others give up in the face of economic imperatives. The media discourse surrounding emigrant females often depicts them as abandoning their families, as fleeing mothers whose departure will bring instability and depravity to their families, while the state itself is never represented as having failed its citizens. Looking at yet another level of analysis, women’s migration is also situated in the global market economy as their lives and families are in the middle of the global division of labor (Parreñas 2000) at the intersection of economic globalization and prescriptions of gender performances and spatialities. The case of domestic workers shows the ambiguities associated with migratory movements and the transformations they trigger: while migration allows women to experience new roles and contributes perhaps to de-essentializing their nurturing role at home, it also triggers other types of gendered and power-based reconstructions. Christine Verschuur (2005) explores the notion of the sex-segregated labor market, such as domestic work, as part of a process of gender reconstruction, not only because domestic work is “in essence” female, but also because it involves individuals from poorer countries and often from a different “race” or ethnicity than their employers. As a result, they are (re)essentialized in their feminine role as caregivers but also, in a racial and social role, as servants. Ironically, female employers who are often themselves subjected to patriarchal rules find their own symbolic “wives” in domestic workers, who are in turn subjugated to a new set of intersected power relations. Migrant domestic workers are also constructed as a threat to receiving countries’ cultures. In the UAE, there are stories of children speaking better Malayalam than Arabic or being under stronger influence of their nannies than of their mothers (Moors and de Regt 2008). Some Muslim parents also fear that their children will engage in non-Muslim practices. In the same line of thought, Longva (2005) shows how the presence of South Asian MDWs in Kuwait had an impact on the families that employed them by slowing down social change as well as women’s access to equal rights. The existence of a whole cohort of right-less migrants who will always be on the margins of Kuwaiti society, given its ethnocratic component (only Kuwaitis “by blood” are granted citizenship;

180 Alexandra Parrs therefore, migrants can never hope to be naturalized), has stopped social development because citizens are aware that they form an elite, based on their very ethnocratic citizenship and thus they do not wish to challenge a system that, albeit autocratic, grants them the status of a de jure blood elite. Furthermore, since citizenship is based on blood (and, therefore, birth), women are perceived as granters of the privilege and glorified in their reproductive role. While this may be changing slowly, Longva argues that women have been ambivalent in challenging a patriarchal system that confers on them a prestigious reproductive role. Lastly, the presence of foreigners within the very intimate space of the family, in the form of MDWs, contributes to forge a collective identity based on the sentiment of being under attack, by potentially morally inferior domestics, who paradoxically are impure and granted access to intimacy and children. That identity of being under siege also encourages Kuwaitis to stick to the traditions of their (perceived) superior and threatened culture, which further reifies said culture. Migration and Remittances One of the most important outcomes associated with migration in the Middle East and North Africa is that of massive remittance flows. When people migrate, they send remittances in the form of unidirectional financial flows to their country of origin that tend to contribute to its development. There is much debate about the benefits of remittances. Indeed financial flows can help communities, relieve poverty, and allow people to invest in different development projects; however, financial remittances can also pose challenges by creating social inequalities between those who benefit from them and those who do not, by inflating prices, and by engendering structural dependencies on migration. Unfortunately, governments also come to see remittances as a way to combat poverty and, therefore, lessen their own programs for social development. While migrants remit in different forms, typically the flows are much larger when only one member of the family migrates, and in that case, migrants tend to remit almost all of their earnings (IOM 2010). People who leave their children behind are the most ardent remitters, as their raison d’être is in essence to remit. In cases of family reunification, remittances tend to decrease. Further, some studies have shown that women tend to remit more, as financial support and material goods sent to children are often a way of “overcompensating” (Parreñas 2005, 323) for the physical absence of the mother and a symbolic penance that mothers willingly pay (Skrbiš 2008).

Gender and Migration


Migration and remittances can also contribute to structural changes within families and affect gender relations. The traditional discourse is that because temporary labor migration usually involves the temporary departure of an adult male, to the extent that this male was the head of the household prior to the departure, there is a de facto increase in the need for the spouse left behind to make important decisions relating to the finances and maintenance of the household. However, the question is to what extent this temporary empowerment continues when the husband returns home. Some studies have shown that it does not always. For instance, Elbadawy and Assaad (2009) in Egypt have noticed that the ability to make decisions is reversed as soon as the husband comes home and that, in fact, households that have experienced migration tend to become more socially conservative. De Haas and Van Rooij’s (2010) ethnographic study comparing Moroccan women married to migrants and nonmigrants shows that male emigration does not trigger female empowerment in the long term, or at least that there is no direct correlation. Initially, they witnessed a temporary increase in responsibilities and decisionmaking power of the spouses and the enablement of better education for women in the family. However, this new role is generally perceived as a burden by spouses and cannot, therefore, be equated with emancipation in the meaning of making independent choices against prevailing gender norms. Furthermore, in a classical patriarchal system, the spending of the husband’s remittances is often determined by inlaws, especially by the mother-in-law. Significant improvements in the position of rural women are primarily the result of general social and cultural change, although migration might have played an indirect, accelerating role in these processes. The increase of male emigration in Algeria, for instance, led to more women seeking work out of the home, and engaging in non-gender-traditional occupations. Homa Hoodfar (1993) shows that both remittances and the changes in power relations within Egyptian migrants’ households depend on many variables, one of them being social class. She identifies a negative impact on women in middle-class households. When their husbands migrated, women often had to abandon their own jobs to care for the household chores and children. They did not receive remittances regularly, since the remitting aspect may not have been perceived as crucial for their survival as it may have been for lower-income families. They suffered from a general loss in prestige, in being “sent back home.” On the contrary, women from lower classes were empowered by their husbands’ migration: their traditional role was affected by the absence of their husbands as they needed to make decisions and manage the financial flows remitted by their husbands, sometimes starting small businesses with the money.

182 Alexandra Parrs They also seemed to be able to distance themselves from their in-laws and overall to gain respect from their husbands as they displayed resilience and leadership. Hoodfar also points out that lower-class husbands grew closer to their wives, whom they perceived as sharing the burden of migration with them, more than their own families (siblings and parents), perceived as mostly interested in benefiting from remitted money without sharing the psychological and emotional cost of migration. She situates the migration decision within the family as a collective decision in which husband and wife would be “in this together.” These findings are slightly in contradiction with those of De Haas and Van Rooij (2010), who later challenged the consensus that present migration strategies are household strategies where families decide together to migrate. Their argument is that these analyses tend to reify the household as a place of consensus, where members are all well informed and rational—similar to neoliberal theories that transform potential migrants into wellinformed, rational individuals, capable of understanding migratory strategies and maximizing their own strategies. According to De Haas and Van Rooij’s (2010) ethnographic study in Morocco, within patriarchal households, women and children have less agency and less of a voice in making decisions and the migratory strategy. In these cases, migration does not necessarily serve to improve the living conditions of a whole household and can sometimes reinforce gendered power relations. They show that the decision to migrate was not always egalitarian and rational but was sometimes motivated by other factors than purely material ones, including intrahousehold conflicts. What Hoodfar (1993) and others have shown is that money is not the only thing that migrants bring back home. The idea of social remittances is that migrants export ideas and behaviors back to their sending communities as well (Levitt 1999, 2001). Levitt observed four types of social remittances: norms, practices, identities, and social capital. Social remittances, just like economic remittances, can take the form of individual or collective remittances. The way migrants remit is influenced by their experience premigration, as well as their experience in the country of destination. Remittances can scale up from a local level to affect regional and national change and scale out to affect other domains of practice (Levitt and Lamba-Nieves 2011). Writer Amitav Ghosh (1992), for example, found that rural Egyptians who had migrated to Iraq sent back ideas and beliefs that challenged the village status hierarchy and allowed for greater social mobility (quoted in Levitt and Lamba-Nieves, 2011). Philippe Fargues (2006) found that time-series data on birth rates and migrant remittances in

Gender and Migration


Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt were strongly correlated, but in varying ways. While the correlation was negative for Morocco and Turkey, it was positive for Egypt. To explain this pattern, Fargues hypothesizes that migration from North Africa to European countries had contributed to the diffusion and adoption of European marriage patterns and small-family norms, and so had played an accelerating role in the demographic transition. In the case of Egyptian migration to conservative Gulf countries, the effect would be the reverse. Additional nuances may need to be added, however. Hoodfar (1993) also identified the impact of social class on social remittances. She noted that when upper-class husbands migrated to Saudi Arabia, they came back more radicalized, associating social status and wealth with religious conservatism; however, husbands from lower and lower-middle classes appeared to return home with more liberal views, disturbed by the lack of leadership or freedom given to Saudi women. This nuance is important in order to avoid sweeping statements on irremediable radicalization in conservative places like Saudi Arabia and instant liberalization associated with migration to places such as Western Europe or the United States. Furthermore, not only does the place of migration have an impact on the migrant, but it is also instrumentalized in the media discourse: Gruntz and Pagès-El Karoui (2013) note that the Egyptian media stigmatizes both returnees from the Gulf as importers of consumerism and conservative religious norms and emigrants whose emigration to Western countries embodies their unpatriotic, unwise, and individualistic behaviors. These stereotypes can also be appropriated by returnees and their families, who can in turn instrumentalize the opposition between extreme conservatism and liberalism to praise Egyptian family values and, therefore, refuse to challenge them (Gruntz and Pagès-El Karoui (2013). Experiences of migration can be exploited both to glorify and perhaps to rigidify “national” values, or contest them, by the media and by migrants themselves. In her study of Lebanese migration to West Africa, for example, Peleikis (2003) examines the ambiguities associated with the influence of migration on migrants’ cultural practices. On the one hand, she notes, maintaining connections with the home and being part of translocal kinship, as well as religious networks, can give new breath to old gendered structures, while on the other hand, gender relations, norms, and orders are indeed contested and negotiated in the migratory process, and females can find new spaces to maneuver. She notes that the kin contract becomes an ongoing subject of negotiation and contestation in the field of migration. Social remittances are also important when women are the remitters because remittances can also be a creator of status. More than economics, the cycle of remittances and support to

184 Alexandra Parrs a homeland is often a way to declare their own value and worth vis-àvis their destination country’s cultural traditions. Families Migrating Together Many migrants to and from the Middle East and North Africa migrate alone, and family reunification is often limited to urban middle and upper classes. Some families migrate to the Gulf, usually when the head of household, typically the father, has a higher-ranking job, and oftentimes families return to their home country when children are older and are to enter college. These transitions can be complex for women who have been socialized in very different environments. Either they grew up in more segregated environments, or they grew up in expat bubbles, and sometimes find it difficult to deal with gender-mixing in academic environments. Migration to the United States and Canada tends to be more permanent and family based. Gender negotiation and reinvention of roles within Arab American families show that families are sites of contestation and tension between patriarchal traditional models and more liberal ones. Empirical studies have demonstrated that, unsurprisingly, family norms and internal dynamics are heterogeneous, and factors such as social class and social capital (network, attachment to the community, relationship) impact the meanings associated with new identity creations (Ajrouch 1999). Whether the culture is perceived as threatened by migration and, therefore, reified or renegotiated, women are often at the heart of movements of contestation or cultural essentialization. In a 1999 study on Arab American families, Kristin Ajrouch concludes that Arab ethnic identity is being created as a dialectic that includes a disdain for American culture but also a desire to acquire some of its attributes, and that ambiguous relationship between opposing emotions is gendered. Immigrants’ families hold on to their Arab ethnicity through females, and concomitantly they strive to attain the American Dream through males (Ajrouch 1999, 138). These gendered differences are often reproduced in children’s socialization, and male and female children of migrants are usually treated differently. Girls’ moral education seems to assume great importance: “back home,” girls’ conduct is an indicator of respectability and honor for the whole family, which translates in immigration countries to making girls’ behavior both a representation of respectability and an important symbol of the cultural and sometimes moral differences between the immigrant community and the receiving country (Abdulrahim 1993; Haddad, Smith, and Esposito 2003; Lacoste-Dujardin 2000). Gruntz and Pagès-El Karoui

Gender and Migration


(2013) have noted some similarities in gendered socialization and education in Europe. In their study focused on Egyptian teenagers in France, they note that while returning to Egypt was not envisaged for boys, in some cases daughters were sent back to Egypt to live with their relatives, a way for emigrant parents to give children a “morally irreproachable Arab-Muslim education” (Gruntz and Pagès-El Karoui 2013, 76). Daughters are seen as requiring a more meticulous moral education and are permitted less cultural exploration than their brothers. Gendered differences are also noticeable in marital strategies among migrants. While in the Gulf exogamy is almost nonexistent and migrants from the Levant would rarely marry GCC citizens (who themselves are often stuck in ethnocratic dialectics and would mostly marry fellow citizens), in European countries, mixed unions are less unusual. Marriage can be a strategy to acquire citizenship (Zohry 2009). Arab migrants to France will often seek to marry a French person, and oftentimes, for Egyptians, a French woman of North African descent is an appropriate compromise between acculturation and consolidation of an Arab heritage (Pagès-El Karoui 2012). However, young men from the second generation sometimes seek to reinvigorate their national belonging and marry “a girl from the village,” who will be perceived as bringing back cultural authenticity. In other words, the young woman would come, voluntarily or not, to embody traditions. In Italy, where Egyptian migration is predominantly male, transnational marriages are the favorite option for migrants (Hoerder 2002), allowing them to remain connected to their country of origin. Women become the link between the new country, already established by their husband, and the old one. As such, they often become guardians of tradition and vectors of conservative values. In embodying tradition and culture, they are also somehow stripped of their individuality and need to display exaggerated cultural traits. In their religiosity, in their modesty, and in their knowledge of national cuisine/traditions, women from back home are often constructed as “bearers of uncorrupted tradition desirable both in the chaste wife and the mothers of the next generation” (Charsley 2012, 6). The paradox lies in the expectation of women who marry migrant men for a more modern, progressive, and egalitarian spouse who would have internalized the values of the society where he settled, while the groom may be hoping for his wife to bring in values of the homeland, or what he believes are values of the homeland. Many French citizens of North African descent are looking to marry a girl from “the old country” in order to bring back traditions—or perhaps embody their own reinvented traditions. For many women, the appeal of migration and citizenship is important, but they often suffer violence and their expectations are not

186 Alexandra Parrs matched. Their vulnerability is increased by the fact that if they separate from their husband after a short period, they may lose their right to reside in the country of immigration. Many women are victims of what Algerian sociologist Sayad (2000) calls the “double absence,” based on the fantasy of a better life in the emigration country, and on being symbolically absent both in France and their country of origin where they often prefer not to go back, for financial reasons and to not face the shame of returning empty-handed. With the intensification of migration and settling of migrants, many observers had predicted that transnational marriages could disappear, as migrants would end up marrying someone in their country of migration, possibly from their own ethnic or religious background. While that phenomenon is definitely noticeable, transnational unions are still numerous, and, perhaps paradoxically, technology appears to be a vector of this continuing tradition, enabling communication and easing travel. As noted by Kibria (2012), the internet enables transnational dating. For Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2002), transnational marriages actually became a metaphor for and an indicator of the globalization of personal lives. Transnational marriages are also situated at the intersection of many hierarchies. They often involve a woman from a less developed country joining a man who has emigrated to a more developed country, which illustrates “multiple hierarchies of power operative within and across many territories” (Mahler and Pessar 2001, 447). However, despite a search for the essence of what traditions are expected to be, or how they are reinvented, and unequal gendered structures, transnational couples are also vectors of change, allowing more freedom and agency for both the groom and the bride, who can negotiate and drive their relations. Transnational relations also affect the meaning of marriage and family, anchoring romantic relations outside of the tight control of kin and that of national structures, permitting the trespassing of boundaries and borders both concretely and symbolically. Refuge and Asylum Finally, it is important to consider another form of migration, which is forced migration, asylum seeking, and refuge. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum— the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and

Gender and Migration


material assistance. Asylum seekers must demonstrate that their fear of persecution in their home country is well-founded, which will enable them to be granted refugee status and remain legally in the country where they sought refuge. Refugee status determination is conducted by local governmental institutions or by the UNHCR when a country has delegated that role to the organization. Refugee is a legal category representing a social and political condition, but it is also a gendered one. Legally, however, female refugees are not treated differently than male refugees as the refugee category tends to erase social, racial, and gendered differences, and lump together different individuals whose personal identities are absolved by the new label (Zetter 1991). Anthropologist Doreen Indra noted in 1987 that people were refugees first, women and men second, and gender was not a variable (1987, 3–4). In the past decades however, women went from being ignored to taking a central place in the humanitarian discourse on refugees and becoming the main focal point of refugee policies. With gender-blindness having been left behind, one word appears to be prevalently associated with refugee women in the humanitarian discourse and policy documents— vulnerability. The roots, representations, and consequences of their vulnerability are not always expressed clearly, and generally, the violence is literal and embodied in the pure physical brutality they have to endure. However, we need to look at multilayered and multifaceted aspects of forced displacement and how it affects gender and identities. It is also important to understand that the recognition of the violence toward female refugees too often operates as a process of victimization of female refugees, represented as passive and helpless victims, lacking agency, and in need of “saving.” Women, quintessential passive mute victims, are not perceived as relevant to understanding the causes and structures of a conflict (Malkki 1995; Rajaram 2002). Women and children are not only constituted as the eternal refugee figures, they are also constructed as “third world refugees” (Phillips 2013, 128), a racialization, on top of their genderization, that implies that the third-worldwomen-and-children assemblage is different from white women who are more likely to be treated as subjects with individuality and not just as representatives of collective suffering. While essentializing women as intrinsically vulnerable disempowers them, it is unquestionable that female refugees can face sexual assault and exploitation at every stage of their journey. Their conditions as refugees tend to make them more vulnerable in their flight, in their asylum-seeking process, in their resettlement, and, when applicable, after they have been repatriated. They are often deprived of the protection of their husbands and family, and most institutions have failed them. Every

188 Alexandra Parrs step of their journey can turn them into prey of the smugglers who abuse women traveling alone to the camps, which are typically spaces situated on the margins of the world (Agier 2008), granting protection in the form of food, shelter, and basic health care, but little else. Even within those protective mechanisms, women are often discriminated against, for instance, in the distribution of food (Hajdukowski-Ahmed, Khanlou, and Moussa 2008) or in their access to education. In many camps, female refugees often resort to what humanitarian organizations call “survival sex,” being forced to grant sexual favors in exchange for basic necessities. There is also a recrudescence of child marriage among young Syrian female refugees, as their families seek to protect them from sexual harassment and abuse by giving them the protection of a husband (Cherri et al. 2017; Freedman, Kivilcim, and Baklacıoğlu 2017). In their study among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Cherri et al. (2017, 9) note that despite being aware of the negative consequences of early marriage, the trend has nonetheless intensified because of the climate of uncertainty and financial constraints among refugees. A 2014 UNICEF study showed that in Jordan, early marriage among Syrian girls increased from 12 percent in 2011 to 25 percent in 2013. In Egypt, where there are no refugee camps, marriages to local husbands allow refugees to obtain the citizenship of their husband, and sometimes families are paid off to marry their young daughters. Desperation in refugeeness brings back subjugating practices that had decreased or perhaps almost disappeared from communities, such as child marriage, prostitution, and domestic violence. Further, war is often a factor in the perpetuation of domestic violence (Allen and Devitt 2012): as economic conditions deteriorate, the social and political environments become unstable and men sometimes resort to using women as an outlet for their anger and frustration (Colson 1995). In the context of conflict, the boundaries between political violence and domestic violence become almost indistinguishable (Wendt and Zannettino 2014, 111). Refugeeness, like migration, changes family structures, gender relations, and identities. On some occasions, female refugees become de facto breadwinners. Sometimes the most accessible jobs are gendered, such as domestic work, which is often socially constructed as feminine, informal, and not regulated by authorities. Grabska noted the impact on Sudanese refugees in Cairo: “The demand for women working as domestic help is high and offers better pay, [and] the job market for Sudanese refugees in Egypt has had a significant impact on traditional Sudanese family roles” (2006, 299). As a result of this obligation to work, refugeeness can paradoxically be an occasion of emancipation for some women, who, in new contexts and environments, escape their

Gender and Migration


structured role of reproducer and suddenly become the major income earners or the decisionmakers. In some refugee community–based organizations, women take on leadership positions that redefine their identity as a woman, but also in some cases as someone belonging to a clan or an ethnic group. Refugee women find themselves in crises that both create challenges and open up new possibilities (HajdukowskiAhmed, Khanlou, and Moussa 2008, 18). Conclusion More and more women are migrating from and within the Middle East and North Africa. The effects of migration are not homogeneous, and male, female, or family migration may reinforce traditional gender norms, encourage collectivities to reify a culture they perceived as being lost, or improve education and lead to empowerment for both migrating and nonmigrating women. What matters, however, is that migration not only affects and disrupts gender roles but also shatters the rhetoric associated with the role of families, often considered a bastion of conservative practices. Migration and the changes it induces in institutions force us to reconsider the essence of the family and understand that it is a fluid social structure, continually reacting to social, political, and economic transformations. It also forces us to look at migrating women as situated at the intersection of various hierarchies of gender, race, and class, as well as citizenship. Female migration also challenges many structures that have been constructed as gendered such as kinship, or what Joseph (2005) calls the kin contract, a social contract that assumes a specific relationship to citizenship and uses family norms as the main base to construct political, economic, and social practices. When families are disrupted, societies are also disrupted. They react in a variety of ways, by invoking the dysfunctionality induced by the departure of women, or by trying to compensate with a plethora of new practices. Female migration also makes us reflect on the agency of female migrants and the traditional construct of passivity, or victimhood associated with women. Both domestic workers and female refugees exemplify how women tend to reinvent their identity in case of migration, forced or not, and use creativity and resilience. We are currently observing deep changes, which are constant dance partners with the recrudescence of traditions and deeply anchored mechanisms that try to stop the changes. All of them, however, tend to dance together and oscillate between social transformation and return to more rigid traditional practices.

190 Alexandra Parrs Notes 1. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 2. In Egypt, for instance, the practice of bringing young women from rural environments to work in urban areas is still common. 3. Organization of twenty-two countries from North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant.

11 Gender and Social Movements Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty

Women have an established history of activism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), whether mobilizing specifically around women’s issues or moving into the public sphere while participating in social movements alongside men. Women have created and participated in both domestic and transnational efforts for women’s empowerment. They have used traditional political protest repertoires to challenge the state, and they have worked with the state as founders and participants in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Gheytanchi and Moghadam (2014, 2) note that “Women in MENA have long taken part in social movements, political protests, and revolutions, even though they have not always benefited—in terms of their legal status and social positions afterwards—from that participation.” However, women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa have long been overlooked in the academic literature, at least partially due to a Western academic view of women in the MENA as universally oppressed. In a now classic piece published in 1991, Chandra Mohanty argued that Western feminists used an archetypal Western educated and independent woman as the referent and represented Middle Eastern women as victims, without the agency or freedom needed to organize and act in their own interests (see Mohanty 1991). Ray and Korteweg (1999) argue that when a burgeoning literature on women’s movements in the third world emerged, it suffered from particularism, with scholars emphasizing the uniqueness of case studies within their particular national and local contexts rather than highlighting continuity in women’s means of mobilization or the types of issues they targeted. 191

192 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty Rather than using the extensive sociological literature on social movements as a lens to understand women’s activism in non-Western settings, case studies were presented as nonreplicable and incomparable (Ray and Korteweg 1999). Valentine Moghadam (2003) noted that while a comparative perspective is rarely applied in the MENA setting, it has been used even less when focusing specifically on women’s status or movements for change in the region. Instead, women’s position in the Middle East and North Africa has been used to advance the argument for exceptionalism. Some authors have even argued that cultural attitudes regarding women’s status are the key fault line between Muslim and Western societies (Inglehart and Norris 2003a). It is unsurprising that there has been little literature on women’s social movements in the Middle East and North Africa because prior to the Arab Spring uprisings, many scholars believed that social movements as they were defined in the West did not exist in the region. The Middle East and North Africa was considered by many to be too authoritarian and repressive for movements to form. Others have claimed that movements occurring in the MENA before the Arab Spring were ignored because they “do not fit into our prevailing categories and conceptual imaginations” (Bayat 2013, 3). Valentine Moghadam (2003), writing on women’s changing status in the Middle East and North Africa, noted that we gain insight into society through comparisons, but this had rarely been applied in the MENA. Similarly, Asef Bayat noted that research and policy from the West used an exceptionalism perspective in viewing the Middle East and North Africa, believing that change in the region must “come from outside, by way of economic, political, and even military pressure” (2013, 3). The view pushed by Western mainstream media and intergovernmental organizations was that although individuals in the region were dissatisfied with their situation, the population was too “repressed, atomized, and passive” to act collectively (Bayat 2013, 3). Instead, activism that occurred in the region was interpreted as isolated angry protests that were directed at outside sources (the West and Israel) rather than their own governments (Bayat 2013). However, over the last two decades, scholars of the Middle East and North Africa have increasingly been using the social movement literature developed as a subfield of political sociology as a framework for examining “Islamist, feminist/women’s rights and human rights movements, labor/worker unionization, and leftist mobilizations in the region both before and after the Arab uprisings that began in 2010–2011” (Rizzo 2018, 1159). Using the political process model, as further refined by Doug McAdam (1982) and others in the mid-1990s, sociologists were able to demonstrate that Middle Eastern activism, particularly Islamist

Gender and Social Movements


movements, were not exceptional cases unexplainable by existing theory. Instead, the theories of movement mobilization used to understand movements across diverse national settings also applied to the Middle Eastern context (Rizzo 2018). Others have noted that the MENA context provides evidence of the transferability of social movement theory (SMT). Beinin and Vairel (2013, 2) view the Middle East and North Africa as sites that allow scholars “not only to confirm the applicability of SMT but also to enrich our theoretical knowledge of social movements and other forms of political contestation.” Recently, scholars have begun to use social movement theory to understand women’s collective action in the Middle East and North Africa. Gheytanchi and Moghadam noted in 2014 (2) that “the use of social movements theorizing in the context of Middle East studies is fairly new, and even more so with respect to women’s movements and the role of women in pro-democracy movements.” Al-Ali (2010), rather than examining women’s social movements in the Middle East and North Africa as single cases, highlights the similarities in movements across the region, particularly in their ties to nationalist movements and the ways in which women organize in repressive and authoritarian environments. Significant advances were made in women’s rights and representation in some Middle Eastern countries during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Examples of such advances that occurred before the Arab Spring include the revision of Morocco’s Mudawanna (family code) in 2004 (Sadiqi and Ennaji 2006); women’s gaining the right to vote and run for political office in Kuwait in 2005 (Kelly 2010); the election of women to the parliaments of Bahrain, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates in the 2000s; and widespread increases in women’s labor force participation, for example, in Kuwait and Qatar. Feminist movements contributed to each of these advances, even when they were not the sole force driving the change. Women were key actors in the Arab Spring protests that began in 2011. As journalist Katherine Zoepf (2017a, 19) describes, “the world watched as young women, some in headscarves and others in tight jeans, joined men in antigovernment protests that ultimately toppled authoritarian presidents in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.” Asmaa Mahfouz, a young female activist, is credited with beginning Cairo’s Tahrir Square protests that led to the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, after she created and posted a video online that called for protesters to gather in Tahrir Square (Zoepf 2017a). Gheytanchi and Moghadam (2014, 2) note that “for some observers, the sight of thousands of women among the protestors . . . was a novelty; for others, the extensive deployment of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in those mobilizations and by women’s rights activists suggests a new phase in feminist

194 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty strategic action.” Women who were prohibited from mobilizing in the past were taking advantage of new technology to advance their causes. The Arab Spring challenged established beliefs about social movements in the Middle East and North Africa, and led many academics to question why the uprisings had not been widely anticipated. In the last several years, a new stream of research has focused on how individuals in the Middle East and North Africa have used forms of social media as a way to organize covertly in repressive or high-risk environments. Online organizing has not only facilitated movements in authoritarian societies where such activities are prohibited or highly regulated by the government but has also increased women’s ability to mobilize in patriarchal environments, where their physical presence in public spaces is restricted. Sociologists of gender in the Middle East and North Africa have focused on the way that the high level of gender segregation limits the ability of women to organize and protest using traditional modes. Fatima Mernissi notes that public spaces are, “by definition, male spaces” and that sex-segregating boundaries existing in some degree in many Middle Eastern societies “express the recognition of power in one part at the expense of the other” (2015, 350). Amélie Le Renard (2014) highlights how gender segregation affects women’s ability to mobilize politically in Saudi Arabia and how segregation and repression of women have been used to undercut movements that challenge the state. Gender segregation was more strictly enforced after the Islamic awakening (sahwa), a highly influential protest movement with both male and female participants (Le Renard 2014). The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice also changed its primary role from promoting men’s religious practices to setting and enforcing women’s public appearance, including urging them to wear full body covering and veil (Le Renard 2014). This spatial segregation allows for educational and social segregation as well, such as using separate educational curriculums for male and female youth and greatly restricting girls’ and women’s opportunities to communicate with men outside of their family (Le Renard 2014). With the Arab Spring came high hopes for widespread emancipation of women and gender equality throughout the region; however, eight years later, the results have been mixed. While women’s rights and equality have improved in some countries since the Arab Spring (for example, Tunisia, as well as Saudi Arabia, albeit in very small increments), no significant improvements have been seen in some other countries (for example, Oman, where very little has changed since the Arab Spring). Continuing conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Yemen have contributed to a dire situation for women in all these countries. In addition to this, the status of women in all territories controlled by the Islamic

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State has declined. In terms of notable achievements in women’s political status post Arab Spring, the parity clause in the Tunisian constitution, Algeria’s party quota for women enacted in 2012 (Shalaby 2016), and women’s gains in securing parliamentary seats in Iran’s 2016 elections (Regencia 2016) are all significant. Areas of Focus In this chapter we focus on the following questions: What are the targets of contemporary women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa? How have the Arab Spring uprisings affected women’s activism and their ability to successfully mobilize to achieve their goals in the Middle East and North Africa? For what reasons have women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa been historically overlooked? We examine the ways women mobilize in the Middle East and North Africa, the issues of contention for women, and the ways women are responding to these issues. We organize contemporary women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa into two broad categories: (1) those targeting political and legal change and (2) those targeting cultural change, but note that movements may have more than one target. We begin by defining the Middle East and North Africa and describing the forms of organizing that Middle Eastern women’s movements have used, specifically, social “nonmovements” and virtual organizing for media activism. We argue that women’s participation in social nonmovements and their use of media activism are two reasons why women’s social movements in the Middle East and North Africa have been underrecognized. Next, we discuss women’s movements targeting political/legal and cultural change in the region. We conclude by describing the similarities in women’s movements across the region. Defining the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa The Middle East and North Africa region encompasses countries with diverse economic, political, cultural, and religious backgrounds, which means women’s status and the issues and legal structures they have contended with are different as well. There is also not a recognized and indisputable set of countries that makes up the Middle East and North Africa. Religious and political divides mean that many sources provide a definition of the Middle East and North Africa that is amoebic in shape, including some countries in the geographic region and excluding others.

196 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty However, despite this diversity, it is possible to summarize women’s position in the region as a whole. Much of the region has been characterized by patriarchal social structures, often based in complex political and religious histories, which has had negative consequences for women’s status and empowerment (Moghadam 2007). For our current purposes, the Middle East and North Africa is defined as the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. This definition is the same as the MENA region as defined by the World Bank, except that we omit Malta (a majority Christian nation that is often considered part of Europe) and Djibouti (more commonly considered part of sub-Saharan Africa), and include Turkey, which is often classified in the MENA region but categorized as a European country by some organizations. Women have participated in various forms of resistance in most Middle Eastern countries for many years. Since the early 1900s, women have published books and magazines and created forums specifically for the discussion of women’s empowerment (Sharoni 1995). In the early 1900s, women’s movements focused on gender equality in family law; in the 1940s, on national liberation and women’s education; and in the postcolonial periods, on gender rights (Bayat 2013). Since the 1980s, the primary movement goal has been for women “to play an active part in society and the economy and to assert a degree of individuality” (Bayat 2013, 8). Women have also had to mobilize to retain gains from earlier periods in the face of conservative Islamist movements (Bayat 2013). The UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 provided increased momentum and support for those working for women’s empowerment at the familial, organizational, and governmental levels (Moghadam 2007). The conferences can be seen as marking an approximate temporal border for discussions of women’s movements in the “contemporary” Middle East and North Africa (Moghadam 2007).

Types of Women’s Organizing in the Middle East and North Africa Social “Nonmovements”

Women in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa face severe restrictions on their ability to organize in traditional social movements. Women’s NGOs may be shut down by the government and their funding seized; they may be unable to establish or circulate publications, and forbidden from working with or receiving funding from international organ-

Gender and Social Movements


izations (Bayat 2013). Bayat notes that in Iran in 2007, activists who organized a One Million Signatures Campaign to fight misogynous laws “were beaten up, not only by morals police, but in some cases by their own male guardians” (2010, 16). More recently, women participating in the Arab Spring uprisings, most notably the Tahrir Square protests, also faced sexual assault by other participants and the police. Because women in the Middle East and North Africa have faced strong restrictions on their ability to organize collectively (at least in nonvirtual public spaces), they have been politically active through what sociologists studying women’s activism in the Middle East and North Africa alternately call “the mundane practices of everyday life” (such as pursuing an education, participating in sports, and working outside the home) (Bayat 2013, 16), or “everyday transgressions” (Le Renard 2014). As Bayat describes it, women in the Middle East and North Africa do take on roles that are traditionally held by men and that require interactions with males outside the family, and in the case of athletic endeavors, clothes that are contrary to established dress codes. Women who did not want to wear a headscarf in public won what Bayat (2013, 17) calls a two-decade “war of attrition” with the morals police, by simply showing a few inches of hair below their headscarf. Le Renard (2014), in her ethnographic study of young women in Saudi Arabia, describes women who break the rules of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice by entering areas of the shopping mall that are off-limits and by criticizing official Islamic rules in private conversations. “In rare situations, criticisms expressed in private become public, articulated in the name of an ‘us’ of young women; this raises the question of the role these ordinary criticisms play in the emergence of common identifications” (Le Renard 2014, 117). Similarly, journalist Katherine Zoepf (2017a, 21) notes the importance of recognizing the impact of “seized opportunities” and “acts of courage” that “appear small” from women who do not identify as feminists or activists. Individual legal challenges also set powerful precedents. Women have challenged judges’ rulings on marital dissolution and child custody cases (Bayat 2013). Women’s “quest for literacy and a college education enabled them to live alone, away from the control of their guardians, or led to a career that might demand traveling alone, supervising men, or defying male dominance” (Bayat 2013, 18). Gradually, these incremental advances for women can threaten the power of the state. More broadly, these legal challenges can chip away at the patriarchal culture of Middle Eastern societies. However, in thinking about the implications of women’s everyday activism, Le Renard (2014, 117) warns against overinterpreting Middle Eastern women’s behaviors through a feminist lens:

198 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty Young Saudi women’s transgressive self-presentation could thus be interpreted as protest against the strict regulations to which they are subjected. However, such a formulation assumes that they would like to protest and claim rights, but cannot. This may lead to an overestimation of the meaning of their acts. This debate has figured in research adopting a gendered approach to analysis of Arab societies. The tendency of certain feminist authors to interpret everything in terms of resistance, and not take seriously the meanings that women attribute to their own acts has been criticized.

Le Renard’s comment is a reminder that although much of the change in women’s status in the Middle East and North Africa may occur through these everyday transgressions, leading to the gradual erosion of patriarchal laws and beliefs, these types of behavior should not be equated with women’s social movements specifically targeting political or cultural change. Virtual Organizing and Media Activism

Another key way in which Middle Eastern women have organized collectively to target political and cultural change is through virtual mobilization and media activism. Women have used online platforms to discuss risky social and political issues in “safe” all-female spaces (see Le Renard 2014). Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs, have become integral to women’s activism in the Middle East and North Africa. Increasingly, social media is an important component of political movements, especially in repressive environments (Agarwal, Lim, and Wigand 2012). Gheytanchi and Moghadam (2014) note that since the early 2000s, access to the internet has expanded in the Middle East and North Africa, and youth and women have taken particular advantage of this as a way to protest. “MENA women activists have used the Internet, social networking sites, and satellite TV to spread their message, recruit supporters, and draw international attention to their cause” (Gheytanchi and Moghadam 2014, 2). Women have been citizen journalists, bloggers, and protesters, and they have used virtual organizing to get around state censorship and media control. Political and Legal Change

One of the most effective ways to instill change is to alter the structure of a society’s political system, as to build a more representative and equal society for all individuals. While it is impossible to make statements that are universal to Middle Eastern women’s circumstances and individual

Gender and Social Movements


rights, it is important to acknowledge ideologies that have shaped relevant laws, traditions, and policies. Valentine Moghadam (2003, 4) notes that “Muslim societies . . . harbor illusions about immutable gender differences.” Moghadam, writing in 2003, noted that throughout the region, long-standing beliefs concerning the legal status of women in the Middle East and North Africa maintain and strengthen barriers to women’s advancement. While the status of women has changed in the intervening period, with, for example, more women enrolling in higher education than men in some countries, patriarchal laws continue to circumscribe women’s lives. Thus, women’s social movements in the Middle East and North Africa continue to target political and legal change. It is important to note that while this chapter focuses specifically on movements that in some way target women’s empowerment, women in the Middle East and North Africa have historically taken part—and continue to take part—in movements with a variety of other goals, such as democracy and nationalist movements, the 2009 Green Protests in Iran, and the Arab Spring protests. Women’s involvement in these movements can increase their political efficacy, lead them to form women’s networks and NGOs, and may lead to women’s movements (Gheytanchi and Moghadam 2014; Erturk 2006). Often, organizing around a feminist agenda has emerged from women’s participation in nationalist movements. For example, in Turkey in the 1980s, Islamists, Kurdish nationalists, and feminists were all competing for political power, and all held different views of women’s rights. Under the illegal Kurdish nationalist party (PKK), women participated alongside men in the violent nationalist movement, including participating in suicide missions. Even though “masculine norms” shaped the PKK’s ideas of women’s status, women’s participation in its ranks and in military conflict “politicized and moved them in the late 1990s to join political parties and to establish women’s rights organizations throughout southeastern Turkey” (Erturk 2006, 94). Palestinian women have had long-standing involvement in the national liberation movement. The Palestinian intifada, in which Palestinians rose up against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, was a key event that mobilized many Israeli Jewish and Palestinian women who had not previously been politically active (Sharoni 1995), although many women had been active long before the first intifada (Gerner 2007). As in many Middle Eastern countries (and most regions of the world), the women’s movement in Palestine has largely consisted of secular, upper-class women. Whether women’s activism in the nationalist movement will lead to advances in women’s rights is still undetermined. Some scholars highlight

200 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty the difficulty Palestinians have in making institutional changes to improve the lives of women and girls in line with the Millennium Development Goals, when the Israeli occupation “denies Palestinians the right to self-determination” (Zuabi 2013). Zuabi (2013) notes that “the occupation itself empowers patriarchy in Palestinian society by enforcing the need for informal, traditional methods through which communities maintain social order.” For example, families are reluctant to send daughters to school when their safety cannot be ensured. To protect school-aged daughters from sexual or verbal harassment by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, girls are kept from attending high schools or universities outside their villages (Zuabi 2013). However, there are ways in which women have used their participation in the nationalist movement to organize collectively to push for political rights. For example, in 2003, women formed a network of “Women Against the Wall,” which was made up of women from different governorates. The network sought to create a women’s branch corresponding to each male-dominated committee in order to give women greater voice in the decisionmaking structure (Richter-Devroe 2012). In 2016, female candidates for municipal elections mobilized to protest online when their names were excluded from campaign materials (instead they were listed as “wife of” or “sister of” their male relatives). They used hashtags and a variety of social media outlets to gather public attention for their cause, and it was picked up by the mainstream media (McKernan 2016). Other contemporary women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa have focused on improving women’s legal protection and individual rights. In Turkey, there is a long-established focus on promoting women’s rights, beginning under Ataturk in the 1900s. Women’s participation in the political sphere was seen as a component of modernization, and state feminism allowed women to have economic and political rights, while also prohibiting their participation in organizations that were not sanctioned by the state. The contemporary feminist movement has been well-developed for decades. Particularly in the 1990s, women’s organizations worked for women’s economic and political rights. By the 2000s, these were established goals on the agendas of mainstream organizations and political parties; women’s rights were no longer simply feminist issues (Caha 2013). Today, female activists continue to focus on representation of women in the workforce and politics. Organizations such as the Association for Support of Women Candidates (Sevinclidir 2015) work to promote women in national government. A division exists between two active feminist movements: Islamist feminists and liberal feminists.

Gender and Social Movements


While the two groups agree on many issues, they tend to diverge on issues of marital and family law, with Islamists taking a more conservative stance (Caha 2013). Parliamentarian Aylin Nazliaka has aggressively worked to advance women’s rights (Bohn 2015). She has extensively criticized the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party for failing to tackle domestic violence, one of the key issues for Turkish feminists (Bohn 2015). As part of her demonstration in parliament, she threw her shoe at fellow deputies. This event led to a virtual women’s movement using the Twitter hashtag “My slipper is coming” in which women “posted pictures of shoes and rallied for equal rights” (Bohn 2015). In Saudi Arabia, challenging the de facto legal ban on women’s driving has become a highly publicized way in which feminist activists have brought attention to the wider issue of women’s restricted legal rights. There is no written ban on women’s driving, but locally issued licenses are required to drive, and they are simply not issued to women (Agarwal, Lim, and Wigand 2012). Saudi women have staged multiple driving protests over the past two decades, some of which involved women’s risking arrest by getting behind the wheel, and others that utilized traditional movement repertoires, such as circulating petitions, in attempts to rescind the ban on women’s driving. During the Gulf War in 1990, forty-seven women in Riyadh drove around the capital to protest the ban on women’s driving. For thirty minutes, they drove in convoy until they were shut down by the police. The women were imprisoned, their passports were confiscated, and some lost their jobs (Le Renard 2014). Scholars viewed this protest as serving to increase the divide between Islamists and liberals (Le Renard 2014). In 2007–2008, women organized a campaign called the League of Demanders of Women’s Right to Drive Cars as part of a broader liberal women’s movement, the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia. This right-to-drive movement (sometimes referred to as the Al-Huwaider Campaign; see Agarwal, Lim, and Wigand 2012) was cofounded by Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fouzia alAyouni. The movement was supported by Aafaq (a liberal Arab news website), Western and international media, and several elite Saudi religious and academic leaders who argued that the ban on women’s driving had little basis in Islamic law (Global Nonviolent Action Database 2010). This movement saw some success. A circulated petition reached 1,100–1,200 signatures and paved the way for movement tactics that generated greater publicity, such as driving protests. The government initially expressed support for lifting the ban on women’s driving but never took action (Global Nonviolent Action Database 2010). In 2008, Wajeha al-Huwaider

202 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty filmed herself driving and posted the video on YouTube. The video, released on International Women’s Day, received much media attention. Al-Huwaider has continued the campaign with her online writing, which criticizes discrimination against women in Saudi society (Agarwal, Lim, and Wigand 2012). Her online campaign has garnered much attention and encouraged other women to participate in the driving movement. In spring 2011, Eman Al-Nafjan and Manal al-Sharif, two female Saudi activists, founded the Women2Drive campaign, asking women to drive themselves to their daily destinations in protest of the driving ban on June 17, 2011 (Agarwal, Lim, and Wigand 2012; Le Renard 2014). In the lead-up to the campaign, Wajeha al-Huwaider filmed Manal al-Sharif driving; Sharif posted the video online and was arrested and detained for about twenty-four hours (Alexander 2013). The arrest served as a focusing event for the movement, leading both international and local media to cover her arrest for driving, and to cover the Women2Drive campaign as a whole. On June 17, 2011, about forty women participated in driving protests in several cities (Alexander 2013; Argawal, Lim, and Wigand 2012). The movement was shut down by police but received coverage in prominent media such as Al Jazeera, CNN, The Guardian, and the Huffington Post (Agarwal, Lim, and Wigand 2012). The women’s driving movement continued to gather momentum during the Arab Spring. By 2013, the online petition for women’s right to drive received over 16,000 signatures and hundreds of Saudi women posted videos of themselves driving on YouTube (Alexander 2013). As of September 2017, this movement was successful, with women’s winning the right to drive (effective in June 2018), which was announced in a royal decree (Hubbard 2017). This means that women will be able to obtain driver’s licenses without the permission of their male guardian (Hubbard 2017). Scholarship on the social movement for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia has focused on the ways activists used social media to garner domestic and international support (Yuce et al. 2014). Using about 70,000 tweets from 116 countries, the authors examined how English and Arabic hashtags were used to garner international and local support, respectively. English hashtags helped activists to draw in transnational and interorganizational support from human rights and women’s rights groups (Yuce et al. 2014). Challenging Male Guardianship Laws

While the driving protests have been ongoing for nearly two decades in Saudi Arabia, a more recently established movement challenges male

Gender and Social Movements


guardianship laws and gender inequality more broadly. The campaign takes place in both the virtual (Facebook and Twitter) and physical (street protests) worlds. In 2016, women organized the campaign with hashtags such as #SaudiWomenWanttoEndGuardianship, #IAmMyOwnGuardian, and #TogethertoEndMaleGuardianshipoverWomen (Bianchi 2017; Gulf Center for Human Rights 2017). The campaign was promoted by Human Rights Watch (Ashok 2016). HRW created three videos as part of the campaign that included interviews with sixty-one Saudi women. Within Saudi Arabia, women activists for the campaign faced retaliation from the state. Maryam Al-Otaibi was a prominent activist on the campaign. After she “was rebuked by her brothers for her engagement in promoting the campaign,” she asked the authorities to protect her from domestic violence, but her father responded by filing a disobedience case against her that resulted in her being sentenced to prison (Gulf Center for Human Rights 2017). Before her father would drop his case against her so she could be released, she had to drop the domestic violence case against her brothers. Another female activist was detained for months and was only released after she published an official apology. A male activist for the campaign was fined and sentenced to a year in prison (Gulf Center for Human Rights 2017). The Gulf Center for Human Rights is a nongovernmental and nonprofit organization founded in 2011 in the Gulf region. It supported the campaign and made specific demands to the Saudi Arabian government that included ending all male guardianship requirements, permitting women to drive, ending gender discrimination in employment, and allowing peaceful activism by both men and women (Gulf Center for Human Rights 2017). Recently, Saudi women have seen success in their movement challenging male guardianship laws. On May 4, 2017, King Salman issued a decree with two parts addressing women’s opportunities. The first part of the decree required government agencies to list services that women can obtain without male guardianship (until the decree, women could not obtain government services without the presence and permission of a male guardian; see Wald 2017). The second part of the decree required employers to provide transportation for women, since they were prohibited from driving themselves (Wald 2017). It is unclear which rights that formerly required guardianship will now be freely available to women, because the decree states that women are not required to obtain permission from guardians unless sharia law provides a basis for male guardianship (Shalhoub 2017). However, Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen of the Saudi Arabian National Society for Human Rights interpreted the law as meaning that women should now be able to obtain and renew passports on their own, travel abroad without a guardian’s permission,

204 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty and represent themselves in court (Shalhoub 2017). Some activists also believed that the decree was the first step in lifting the female driving ban entirely, as the burden for transporting women was placed on employers (Wald 2017). In another achievement for the movement, women were awarded the right to attend sporting events in stadiums in October 2017 (Schmidt 2017). It is likely that a number of factors drove Salman’s decree expanding rights for women. In addition to women’s activism and the broad reception of their campaign, economic and political factors were also at play. A state plan called “Saudi Vision 2030” seeks to diversify the economy and reduce reliance on oil, in light of dropping oil prices, by increasing women’s employment (Beiter 2016). Second, the decree may have been issued in part to satisfy requirements of the UN Human Rights Commission, after Saudi Arabia was elected to serve on the UN Commission on the Status of Women in April 2017 (Shalhoub 2017). And, a third component is undoubtedly women’s activism. There has also been a long-standing movement for greater legal rights for women in Yemen, although the momentum of the movement has been hindered by the tumultuous post–Arab Spring environment. In Yemen, women’s rights have varied substantively based on the regime in power. In the 1970s, under the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, feminists’ movements were successful, partly because they matched state visions that saw both men and women as necessary in the development of the country. In the 1990s, after unification, forces in the conservative south gained power and established a conservative family law that was detrimental for women (Dahlgren 2013). In the contemporary period, women were key activists in the Arab Spring uprising that overthrew President Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Women marshaled rallies, slept in protest camps, went on hunger strikes and covered the unrest as bloggers and photographers” (Finn 2015). Feminist activist Tawakkol Karman was one of the first to lead a demonstration calling for the president’s resignation at Sana’a University in 2011 (Finn 2015). In Yemen, women have organized to protest feminist issues, including child marriages (Transfeld 2014). Activist Amal Nasser organized a conference of Arab women to address this and other feminist issues at an “Arab Hub” in Berlin in May 2014 (Transfeld 2014). As part of the GCC initiative that brought about the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemenis were required to form a National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The NDC is to serve as a site for addressing social and political issues relevant to the future of Yemen. Jamila Rajah is a member of the NDC and notes the goals of feminist activists in Yemen have changed over time. As quoted in Transfeld (2014), Nasser notes

Gender and Social Movements


that before the Arab Spring, the women’s movement was fragmented, with activists focused on distinct issues of education and literacy. After the Arab Spring and the formation of the NDC, women’s goals changed to focus on economic, political, and social rights, specifically, “gender budgeting, health, education, as well as the quota” (Rajah as quoted in Transfeld 2014). A key achievement for women’s rights resulting from the revolution in Yemen was a 30 percent quota agreement for women in national parliament (Transfeld 2014). Before the Arab Spring, the key concern was that conservative women with regressive views on women’s rights might be elected to government (Transfeld 2014). Since 2015, the more pressing deterrent on women’s activism and obtaining greater rights is the ongoing civil war. In January 2017, a female Yemeni literary activist, Amat al-Aleem al-Asbahi, was shot and killed, leading to concern that she may have been targeted for her activist work by extremists (McKernan 2017). Cultural Change Through at least the 1990s, the dominant view on social movements as articulated through the political process approach was that social movements targeted the state for either benefits and rights, or legitimacy. However, critiques of the political process approach emerged as scholars realized that many post-1960s movements had both cultural and political targets (Armstrong and Bernstein 2008). Armstrong and Bernstein developed a multi-institutional politics model that recognizes that for some social movements, cultural change may be the primary target. Many efforts for women’s advancement in the Middle East and North Africa have taken a cultural approach, meaning that the fundamental ideologies and beliefs that typically rule a society are questioned and targeted for change. Movements for cultural change are a significant tool for women in the Middle East and North Africa. Moghadam (2003) has made clear that ideological beliefs shape social structures that determine legal, political, and economic freedoms for women. Many Middle Eastern women’s movements target cultural change as a primary or key movement outcome. The anti–sexual harassment campaign in Egypt is an example of this, as activists are working for both legal and cultural change. Sexual harassment has been a key target for activists in Egypt because the country has one of the highest rates of sexual harassment in the world, including mob sexual harassment, such as that which took place when men could not get into a movie showing over the Eid holidays in 2006 and began assaulting women on the

206 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty streets (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). Mass assaults also took place during the Tahrir Square protests. The state has also systematically used rape and sexual assault to punish women accused of crimes and to extract confessions. While this was used on some revolutionaries as an example of the depravity of the Nasser regime, a recent report shows that sexual violence by security forces under the current president, alSisi, has actually increased from previous levels (FIDH 2015). Alia Soliman, communications manager at the NGO HarassMap, notes that progressive laws and policies will not create full change if people on the street do not view sexual harassment as a crime (Nader 2017). As long as it is not viewed as a crime, bystanders will not intervene and women will underreport. Before the Arab Spring, the women’s movement had gained some recent victories in Egypt. In efforts to promote its national image, the state worked to accommodate the demands of some feminist groups (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). For example, the National Council for Women was established under Suzanne Mubarak, former first lady of Egypt. A coalition of religious scholars, activists, and lawyers garnered some family law reforms in 2000, after fifteen years of pressure on the state. However, laws protecting women against domestic and sexual violence were poorly enforced, and the state has a history of using violence and threats of violence to silence female activists (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) began a campaign against sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo in 2005, and the campaign remains active through the involvement of multiple organizations more than a decade later. The initial campaign was multifaceted and included mobilizing activities to raise awareness of the campaign and recruit supporters (such as survey distribution, talk show appearances, and press releases); organizing activities (such as meetings and focus groups); and activities directed at institutional change (including drafting and campaigning for new legislation) (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). The campaign focused on cultural change through educational programming, such as training schoolteachers how to recognize harassment and creating an informational film. ECWR was able to build alliances with local NGOs and the UN to support the campaign’s work. The campaign faced resistance from the state. ECWR was closely monitored and prohibited from distributing surveys on the Cairo University campus. At least one Awareness Day event was shut down just hours before it was scheduled to begin (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). In 2008, the issue of sexual harassment in Cairo began to receive much more coverage in the media. Many NGOs began to focus on legal change, pressing for stronger laws on sexual harassment. In 2010, activists

Gender and Social Movements


established HarassMap, an Arabic- and English-language initiative, which has an overarching goal of seeking cultural change to reduce sexual harassment, documenting sexual harassment, making victims aware of support services, and protecting female protesters from sexual aggression by mobs and agents of the state (Peuchaud 2014). Originally, the organization gained attention by featuring free software that allowed users to freely and anonymously report incidents of sexual harassment and violence that they experienced or witnessed (HarassMap n.d.; Peuchaud 2014). It also allowed users to view incidents, and see which areas are most dangerous for women. Since the 2011 revolutions, a key goal of the organization has been to protect female protesters who have been subject to sexual aggression, from mobs or the state. The organization provides activists with an app called “I’m Getting Arrested” that sends the time and location of an arrest to family, fellow activists, and legal support (Peuchaud 2014). Many other NGOs have been involved in larger social movements targeting sexual harassment, including “I Saw Harassment,” “Operation Sexual Harassment,” and “Basma” (Al Jazeera 2014b). The Egyptian revolution of 2011 may have created a political opportunity for those who had been mobilizing for stricter laws (and greater enforcement of existing laws) for years. In January 2014, a specific law criminalizing sexual harassment was approved by interim president Adly Mansour as an amendment to the Egyptian legal code. Though the law was seen as progress, activists criticized the basis for the law, as it was written as an issue of public morality rather than as an issue of individual rights: The law does not acknowledge an individual’s right to bodily integrity and freedom from harassment and abuse. Rather, the language employed on the books and in court rulings focuses on the importance of public morality and maintaining the integrity of the family unit. It is no wonder, then, that only heterosexual rape—which introduces the possibility of pregnancy—is criminalized, and that survivors who press charges are urged to consider the effect of the charges on the perpetrators’ family life. (El-Rifae 2014)

The law was passed two days before power passed to newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (El-Rifae 2014). The first arrests under this new law occurred in June 2014 when seven men were arrested in connection to the sexual harassment cases that occurred in Tahrir Square (Al Jazeera 2014b). President Sisi was forced to take a stand on the cases after a video of a woman being sexually assaulted was made public, and activists pressured him to make a statement. However, activists were concerned about any progress for women’s

208 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty rights under Sisi, since he publicly defended forced virginity tests on women who participated in the Tahrir Square protests (Al Jazeera 2014b). In January 2017, the Egyptian parliament passed more severe penalties for sexual harassment (Nader 2017). The draft bill, presented by committee member Suzy Nashed, called for amendments to the existing sexual harassment law that included increasing jail terms to one year from six months and increasing fines for those found guilty of sexual harassment (El-Din 2017). However, the increased penalties have been seen as having little impact, since the social stigma continues to deter most victims of sexual assault from pressing charges. Of greater concern is the previously mentioned surge in sexual violence against women perpetrated by the state as a tool to quash dissent. Targets of sexual violence by the state include, “in addition to opponents of General el-Sisi’s regime, . . . NGO representatives, protestors, individuals perceived as going against the moral order, as well as common-law detainees” (FIDH 2015, 3). The violence is recognized as widespread in detention centers, and key victims are women, LGBT individuals, and minors. Types of assault include “rape and sexual assault, rape with objects, anal and vaginal ‘virginity tests,’ electrocution of genitals, sex-based defamation and blackmail perpetrated by police, state security and military personnel” (FIDH 2015, 4). In terms of women’s rights, Tunisia is one of the best-ranked countries in the Arab world, according to recent Freedom House surveys (Charrad and Zarrugh 2013). With the adoption of a progressive family law in 1956, the Code of Personal Status (CPS), women have achieved autonomy, political rights, and personal-security guarantees that are more gender egalitarian than in most of the MENA region. Top-down legal reforms that improved women’s status took place under President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who saw improving women’s status as a path to modernization and improving Tunisia’s image on the international scene (Charrad and Zarrugh 2013). Women were active in the protests that led to the ousting of Ben Ali in 2011, and were successful in keeping gender equality in the discussion during the drafting of the new constitution. Women’s groups drafted a new gender quota measure to increase women’s representation as candidates on party lists, which has led to increased representation of women in national government. Women also mobilized to protest Article 28, “Women’s Rights,” in the constitutional draft. The article described women’s roles as “complementary” (rather than equal) to those of men. “Opponents of the ‘complementary clause’ of Article 28 argued that the clause defined women only in relation to men and, in addition, only recognized women as married, further negating the multiple and diverse lifestyles of Tunisian women” (Charrad and Zarrugh 2013).

Gender and Social Movements


Cultural change is also a goal in Tunisia. The women’s organization, Chaml, has a stated goal of “desiring to change society’s views on women, deconstructing the myth of ‘Tunisian women.’”1 The blog takes on a number of issues, including the objectification of women in Tunisia’s media. The NGO Chouf, founded in 2013 by a group of young women, began by providing free self-defense classes to prostitutes and marginalized women. The goal was for women to be able to protect themselves from harassment on the street (Blaise 2016). The organization also hosts a feminist arts festival and a writing workshop where women (and men) are welcome to gather weekly and write on feminist themes such as motherhood, sexuality, and rights forbidden to women (Blaise 2016). One offshoot of the movement targeting cultural change to improve women’s lives involves women’s reclaiming spaces that are de facto male, such as coffeehouses. Activist Mona Dachri Bouzaiene has created a television show, RDV9, that is based on hidden cameras that record reactions to women in male-only spaces. The television show is broadcast on Attessia TV and is available on Facebook and YouTube (Blaise 2016). In one episode of the show, women pretend to sexually harass men on the street, to highlight the issue of harassment of women (Blaise 2016). The young women active in these movements note how the issues they are targeting diverge from issues of Western feminism. For example, the veil is seen as a Western issue and one that has been overblown (Blaise 2016). Conclusion Over the last twenty years, scholars studying Middle Eastern women’s activism have responded to critiques that Middle Eastern women have historically been viewed as passive victims rather than as agents of change (Mohanty 1991), that research on activism in the Middle East and North Africa has suffered from particularism rather than utilizing a comparative approach (Moghadam 2003; Ray and Korteweg 1999), and that movements occurring in the Middle East and North Africa prior to the Arab Spring have been overlooked because they did not fit into prevailing conceptualizations of social movements that were developed in the West (Bayat 2013). In the past two decades, scholars examining Middle Eastern women’s activism have made use of the social movement literature as a lens for understanding Islamist, feminist, human rights, and labor movements in the Middle East and North Africa both before and after the Arab Spring (Rizzo 2018). Beinin and Vairel (2013) view the Middle East and

210 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty North Africa as a site for confirming the utility of social movement theory and building our theoretical understanding of social movements. Recent contributions to the literature use SMT to understand women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa (Gheytanchi and Moghadam 2014), and to understand the ways the Arab Spring influenced women’s activism and status. Recent studies also provide an understanding of the risks of women’s activism and protest and the ways they navigate these risks, such as by using online platforms. In this chapter we have examined the targets of contemporary women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa, the effect of the Arab Spring on women’s activism, and the reasons why women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa have received little attention from social movement theorists. The following section provides a summary of research in each of these areas. Targets of Middle Eastern Women’s Movements

Women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa target both political/legal and cultural change. The Saudi women’s movement challenging the ban on women’s driving is an example of a strong movement for legal change that lasted nearly three decades (1990–2017). The movement used traditional tactics (such as circulating petitions) as well as high-risk behavior (women who disobeyed the ban and drove were arrested and fired from their jobs, in some cases). More recently, a key tactic was to film themselves driving and then post this on social media, to be picked up by international media. In September 2017, King Salman lifted the ban on women’s driving, to be effective in June 2018. Zoepf (2017b) notes that the movement’s ability to garner international attention and sympathy was a key factor in its success, by placing pressure on King Salman to lift the ban. We find that today, just as has occurred historically, women’s movements for political rights are often spurred by women’s involvement in movements alongside men, such as the Palestinian nationalist movements that led female members to form “Women Against the Wall,” which sought to create a women’s branch corresponding to each maledominated committee in order to give women greater voice in the governing body (Richter-Devroe 2012). Many women’s movements in the region also share similar targets with movements around the globe, such as challenging violence against women and advocating for greater rights. For example, the Twitterorganized movement in Turkey, “My slipper is coming,” was in response to feminist critiques that the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party was not addressing domestic violence satisfactorily.

Gender and Social Movements


The recognition that the primary goal of a social movement can be cultural change is still relatively recent (see Armstrong and Bernstein 2008). However, as in the West, cultural change is a primary or key cause of many movements. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and the Tunisian women’s organization, Chaml, have both focused on changing societal views of women. The anti–sexual harassment campaign in Egypt has focused on making people aware that sexual harassment is a crime so that it will not be normalized and bystanders will intervene (Nader 2017; Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). The Effect of the Arab Spring on Women’s Activism

The Arab Spring has had a mixed effect on women’s activism and overall status. Women’s participation in protests alongside men challenged popular conceptions of women as powerless in the region and exposed them as key actors in public and virtual spaces. Women were not just participants but leaders in the Arab Spring revolutions, as in Egypt where a young female activist (Asmaa Mahfouz) posted videos online calling for protesters to gather in Tahrir Square (Zoepf 2017a). Since the Arab Spring, women’s rights and equality have improved in some contexts, but there has been no change or even a decline in women’s safety and legal rights in others. Analysis of survey data from the region since 2011 suggests disappointingly little change in patriarchal attitudes among both men and women (Abbott and Teti 2017). Results have shown minimal difference between men and women, and women have expressed only slightly more gender-egalitarian attitudes than men. Findings from the 2013 Arab Barometer survey were counterintuitive. On the one hand, when asked if gender equality should be mandated in their countries’ constitutions there was “near total agreement” with men nearly as supportive as women. On the other hand, both men and women also strongly agreed with having sharia mandated as the basis for law (Abbott and Teti 2017). Why Have Women’s Movements Received Little Attention from Movement Theorists?

Women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa have received less attention and sociological analysis than they deserve, for multiple reasons. First, academics note that women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa were long overlooked because women in the region were not considered to have enough autonomy to mobilize for change (see Mohanty 1991). Second, literature on women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa tends to be case studies, and the unique

212 Anne M. Price and Chelsea Marty qualities of each case are highlighted rather than emphasizing similarities across the region in the targets of women’s movements, or the tactics they utilize. The comparative perspective is rarely applied in the Middle East and North Africa, and even less so in examining women’s movements (see Moghadam 2003; Ray and Korteweg 1999). Finally, women’s movements have been overlooked because women are often mobilizing in virtual spaces rather than employing typical movement repertoires. Directions for Future Research

Further research is needed that highlights the commonalities in the way women mobilize across the region and in other repressive environments. Al-Ali (2010) has begun this process in her work highlighting the similarities in movements across the region, especially in describing how they are often outgrowths of nationalist movements. Research should also focus on the similarities in the types of issues women target, both within the region and globally. Additionally, research should develop a typology for understanding when women’s mild forms of disobedience and deviations from expected gender norms in the Middle East and North Africa can be understood as social movements. Scholars have recently called attention to women’s “everyday transgressions” (such as entering areas of shopping malls that are off-limits in Saudi Arabia) (Le Renard 2014) and activism through “the mundane practices of everyday life” (such as pursuing sports or professions that are not culturally accepted for women) (Bayat 2013). Bayat (2013) also describes women’s “war of attrition” fought with the morals police, by simply showing a few inches of hair below their headscarf. Zoepf (2017a) notes that these “acts of courage” “appear small,” and the women taking them often do not identify as feminists or activists. Le Renard (2014) notes that scholars need to be careful not to attribute a meaning to such acts that is not intended. In response to new recognition of “nonmovements” and the ways women challenge legal barriers and cultural norms through their daily action, research is needed that focuses on the new forms that women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa are taking (such as the increased mobilization in virtual spaces) and the meanings that Middle Eastern women give to their own actions. Note 1. -publicite-tunisienne, accessed September 4, 2017.

12 The New Media Activism Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam

Since 2009, as protesters in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Turkey, and more recently Algeria poured into the streets to express dissatisfaction with their governments, the international community has been able to peer into their world via bloggers and citizen journalists whose video clips taken by their mobile phones and transported into Web 2.0 sites have become a source of news. The trend, however, began earlier, when Salam Pax, the “Baghdad Blogger,” became the iconic citizen blogger and the UK’s Guardian newspaper carried his reports from Iraq during the conflict (Pax 2003). Since then, access to the web has expanded in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, especially among the youth. Protesters, bloggers, and citizen journalists—young women and men alike—are increasingly connected and tech savvy. Women in the MENA have long taken part in social movements, political protests, and revolutions, even though they have not always benefited—in terms of their legal status and social positions afterwards—from that participation. In the wake of the Arab Spring, interest was directed at the role that MENA women’s movements and their social networks played in the democracy movements, elections, and transitions. For some observers, the sight of thousands of women among the protesters in Iran in June 2009 and in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 was a novelty; for others, the extensive deployment of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in those mobilizations and by women’s rights activists suggested a new phase in feminist strategic action. For the past decade at least, MENA women activists 213

214 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam have used the internet, social networking sites, and satellite TV to spread their message, recruit supporters, and draw international attention to their cause. In many cases they have used ICTs to circumvent state media control and censorship and connect with others domestically and transnationally. In so doing, the women’s rights activists have become media activists and have joined the ranks of citizen journalists. Social movements and their relationship with ICTs have long been a research topic for sociologists (see, e.g., Tufekci 2017). The use of social movement theory in the context of Middle East studies is fairly new, and even more so with respect to women’s movements and the role of women in pro-democracy movements. Indeed, two key features of the mass social protests of 2009 in Iran, the 2011 Arab Spring protests, and the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul are (1) the strong presence of ICTs, including mobile phone technologies and satellite TV broadcast in countries where print media, TV, and radio are strictly controlled by the states; and (2) the presence of women either as feminists or as among those protesting the status quo. The latter in particular may signal a change in MENA politics: women’s movements and broader social movements for social change seem no longer to be separate entities but rather are intertwined social phenomena. In what follows, we explore this complex relationship by examining the diffusion of the use of new media technologies by women through the internal and external communicative practices of social movements and the effects upon women’s roles as collective agents of social change. We examine women’s media activism in the region’s social upheavals, with a focus on four country cases: Iran’s Green Protests and feminist movement; the 2011 political revolutions in Tunisia and in Egypt, and women’s campaigns since then; and the gradualist movement in Morocco for women’s rights and democratization. We show that women’s cyberactivism, their citizen journalism, and their selforganization both contribute to and reflect the social and political changes that have occurred in the region. We draw on the literature on women’s movements and campaigns (Moghadam 2013; Shalaby and Moghadam 2016; Skalli 2006, 2010, 2011), the literature on social media activism (Buskens and Webb 2014; Yahyanejad and Gheytanchi 2012), our active “webservations” (Varisco 2002), and our ongoing observations of the pro-democracy movements in the region. Social Movements and Women’s Movements Social movements are analyzed through concepts and tools that define their scope, strategies, and focus. Borrowed from the vast literature on

The New Media Activism


social movements in the United States and Europe are concepts such as resource mobilization (McCarthy and Zald 1987; Tilly 1978), political process and opportunity (Gamson and Meyer 1996; Kriesi et al. 1995; McAdam 1982; Rucht 1996; Tarrow 1998), and new social movements (Melucci 1989; Touraine 1981). In the context of the Middle East and North Africa, a growing literature has examined Islamist movements (Schwedler 2006; Wickham 2004; Wiktorowicz 2003), women’s movements (Abdulhadi 1998; Moghadam and Gheytanchi 2010), protest movements such as Iran’s 2009 Green Protests (Hashemi and Postel 2011), and, more recently, the Arab Spring (Beinen and Vairel 2011; Lynch 2012; Moghadam 2013; Shalaby and Moghadam 2016). Research from within Middle East studies and Middle East women’s studies has elucidated aspects of women’s movements in the modern era in countries such as Egypt, Iran, and Turkey and their encounters with the state (Al-Ali 2000; Arat 1999; Badran 1996; Brand 1998; Charrad 2001; Karam 1998). Movements for women’s rights were typically led by elite women, and these movements often joined coalitions of nationalist, anticolonial, or progressive movements. During state-building or modernization periods, some women’s organizations were co-opted by the state, with the effect that by the end of the twentieth century, large and relatively well-funded stateaffiliated women’s organizations were present throughout the region. Independent women’s organizations remained small and underresourced, but the global diffusion of the model of nongovernmental organizations saw the expansion of women’s NGOs in the MENA. Such organizations included service-delivery NGOs that received funding from governments or international donors; women-led research and policy institutes, including a variety of women-staffed professional associations; and autonomous feminist organizations. The collective action repertoire of the various women’s organizations— whether state-affiliated or autonomous—generally consisted of policyoriented research, meetings and conferences, some organizing and service delivery (including legal literacy and elderly women’s housing), international networking, and public advocacy and awareness raising, often through radio, television, and the popular press. Most women’s organizations were structured in a traditional manner, with a hierarchy and centralized decisionmaking. One distinctive feature of the past decade has been a burgeoning of women’s rights self-organizing that is neither centralized nor hierarchical. The model of loose networks that are decentralized and relatively leaderless has permeated the women’s movement and has been characteristic also of the mass social movements in the region, such as the Green Protests and the Arab Spring protests. Women’s activism

216 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam has thus shifted into loose social networks of advocates of women’s equality, participation, and rights in their respective countries. The shift has been made possible by at least three factors: the diffusion of concepts of democratic organizing and decisionmaking, the need to “bypass the state” in an authoritarian context, and the spread of ICTs across the globe. Exiled activists in Western countries also contribute to the transnational spread of the awareness of women’s plight in these countries. Particularly important in authoritarian societies where states control the mass media is the role of ICTs. The free flow of information and communication is an essential source of power that enables political contests to take place over the aspirations, values, and imaginations of people (Castells 2007; Mann 1986; Tufekci 2017). In the case of MENA societies, the free flow of communication afforded by ICTs allows activists to plan ahead, communicate with the outside world, and circumvent state censorship and control. For example, in Syria, activists engaged with the National Campaign Against Honor Crimes collected signatures of thousands of citizens on a petition that was sent to the president, parliament, government, and media in 2009 (Sawah 2009). In March 2011, only 19.8 percent of Syrians had access to the internet, 1 but the digital activists, women included, employed new media to wage a variety of campaigns mobilizing Syrians against what they saw as repressive state policies. During 2011 and 2012, evidence of police and military brutality was globally disseminated by Syrian citizen journalists. This process of greater citizen participation is not a new phenomenon but has been occurring for some time, in three forms. In one, citizens create or join NGOs and advocacy networks, helping to strengthen civil society. Women’s groups, in particular, have formed women’s rights organizations throughout the region, demanding family law reform and other changes to women’s legal status. Another form of citizen participation has been overt manifestations of public dissatisfaction. In the 1970s and 1980s, street protests erupted in North Africa over structural adjustment policies; in the late 1990s, Iran’s student movement pushed for political and social reforms; and in the new century, Egypt saw a wave of protests by workers, by supporters of Palestinian national rights, and by political reformists. A third form is what Asef Bayat has termed “social non-movements,” by which he means “societal, incremental, invisible yet pivotal change precipitated by ordinary people who are not civil society activists” (Bayat 2010, 21). Earlier, Diane Singerman (1996) had examined how low-income Cairenes use family and community ties to secure a liveli-

The New Media Activism


hood and carry on cultural traditions, which she called a form of political practice. More recently, Berna Turam (2015) has extended the argument to discuss how citizens in Istanbul use urban spaces to initiate a kind of democratization from below. In this chapter, we focus on the first two forms of citizen participation, and especially the use of the new information and communication technologies for purposes of mobilization, protest, or political change. The power of communication in spite of state censorship, and indeed the spread and use of ICTs in the MENA, contributes to civic activism and a greater sensitivity to deprivations and citizen rights through the diffusion of grievances and aspirations. The new social networking media act as both framing devices and mobilizing mechanisms providing a certain degree of anonymity but also limited effect. As Yahyanejad and Gheytanchi (2012, 151) state, in reference to Iran’s Green Movement, “Though social media can widen the grassroots base of social movements, such media (with their open, horizontal nature) can also breed confusion when there is a need to deal with complex issues and tactics that require discipline, strategy, and a degree of central leadership.” The open and horizontal nature of social media allows previously marginalized groups such as youth, women, and ethnic minorities to participate in the early stages of social protest in the MENA.2 But, as Tufekci (2017, 78) notes, leaderless campaigns and networked movements may have limited capacity to negotiate when the opportunity arises. Nor are they necessarily less vulnerable to state repression than are more traditional types of movements. Along with the internet, the introduction of satellite TVs in the MENA has opened up the possibility for marginalized groups to be connected to their peers and fellow counterparts in exile elsewhere in the world and outside state limits. In the new century, the combination of political liberalization and diffusion of satellite TV and internet technology in the MENA led to a relatively open, transnational, and electronic communicative space that some scholars have called a “new Arab public sphere” (Ayish 2002; Eickelman and Anderson 1999; Hafez 2001; Lynch 2006; Rugh 2004). As Marlyn Tadros stated, the internet and ICTs contributed to a distinct community within the Arab world—a community of online activists, able to communicate with each other and capable of producing their own two-way information without direct government intervention. It may even be called parallel communities of activists, strengthened by the fact that individuals who normally would not be involved in activism are now “speaking out” and expressing themselves on the Internet. (2005, 24)

218 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam Describing women’s activism, Tadros argued that while their websites might be outnumbered by those of Islamists, their “virtual activism” was an irreversible social trend. For women’s rights activists in the MENA, the internet allows connectivity and mobilization to an unprecedented degree, and has helped to contribute to a certain “feminization of the public sphere” (Moghadam and Sadiqi 2006) through online and offline discussions, debates, and commentaries on women’s rights, state policies, or the impact of sociopolitical changes on women.3 In addition to the typical forms of women’s organizing such as discussion groups, conferences, and publications, women’s rights advocates have added street protests, boycotts, petition drives, and other nonviolent strategies to their collective action repertoire. Indeed, women have been at the forefront of nonviolent political action (Stephan 2010), and their involvement in the MENA social protests is deeply intertwined with the larger social movement for sociopolitical change in these countries. Some examples of the strategies deployed, and the way that they widen the network of both women’s rights activists and social activists, illustrate our point. In most countries, women’s rights activists have turned to satellite TV such as Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, CNN International, and the BBC to help counter the state’s monopoly over the news. Whereas activists might once have been concerned about being labeled “Western puppets” or discredited as having been “manipulated by the agenda of foreign satellite TV,” as one Iranian feminist put it,4 they have increasingly used satellite TV to advance their cause. Nisbet and Myers (2010, 362) alert us that these satellite TV stations are contributing to the making of “transnational collective interests” across the region. Satellite TV provides the most visible context to the emergence of collective interests of women across the region.5 In another example, in the wake of the expulsion of foreign reporters from Iran after the first week of the Green Protests, it was nearly impossible for the international community to acquire evidence of the state’s suppression of the protests. In response, women’s rights activists uploaded video clips of state brutality against activists on YouTube, a move that changed the nature of the news coverage. A third example is the use of maternalist discourses among women protesters. In Egypt, women activists brought their children to the street protest of January 2011, and in their blogs they demanded a better future for their children. Such expressions of “activist mothering” (see Carreon and Moghadam 2015), in physical space as well as on blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networking sites, resonated with many women surfing the net, with the effect of creating what we call “accidental” activists or feminists.

The New Media Activism


Indeed, our ongoing research on women and social media in Iran has found that many women initially go online to connect with peers and then stumble across social issues discussed widely in the Persian cyberspace and social networking sites. This seems also to have occurred in Morocco, in connection with the tragic case of Amina Filali. The young woman’s suicide following an abusive marriage to her rapist galvanized numerous Moroccans to protest online and in front of state offices the oppression and injustices experienced by such poor women (Skalli 2012). In Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, the new communication technologies and women’s increasing access to the internet have familiarized a broad cross section of the population with critiques of women’s oppression and campaigns to end it. The strategic use of the internet by activists for purposes of information dissemination, and widespread connectivity among young people, has thus created “accidental” feminists and activists. Why people rebel is a complex and variable combination of grievances, opportunities, and what McAdam (1982) called “biographical availability.” For many citizens in the MENA, the adoption of economic policies of neoliberalism—which are associated with growing income inequalities, corruption, unemployment, and the rising costs of living— has been the source of widespread grievances. For some segments of the population, rising educational attainment of women as well as men, the high rate of youth unemployment, and access to world society and global norms through satellite television, social networking media, and travel have generated aspirations for more freedoms as well as dissatisfaction with the status quo. This is the broad economic, sociopolitical, and demographic context in which protests have occurred in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco, to which we now turn.

Case Studies: Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco Iran

The June 2009 presidential election in Iran was controversial and contentious, pitting two reformist candidates against the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What began as a protest framed as “Where Is My Vote?” became a more direct challenge to the authority of the state, including that of the unelected Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei (Hashemi and Postel 2011). The Green Movement that emerged out of the mass protests, like the women’s rights movement, was decentralized, nonhierarchal, and grassroots in nature.

220 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam Following the contested election results, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clamped down on protesters, who then turned to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook; citizen journalism in Iran helped make the Green Protests known worldwide. Ahmadinejad shut down the internet in Iran for some twenty hours, but even after the ban was lifted, the government continued to heavily filter the internet, blocking sites such as Facebook and BBC News. It implemented a centralized system for internet filtering to augment the filtering conducted at the internet service provider level (Deibert et al. 2010, 545). In response, Iranian activists used diverse means to get their message out, including mobile phones (with SIM cards that allow a limited level of privacy). People in other countries began setting up their computers as proxies so that citizens could access the internet through those other computers, circumventing the security set up by the Iranian government. The cyberbased hacking group Anonymous began a website called Anonymous Iran that provided tools to get around Iran’s security measures. Citizens themselves began using the newly popular Twitter to post blurbs about the protests and the unjustness of the election, and also used photo sites such as Flickr and Tehran24, as well as YouTube and Facebook, to post images of protests and violence against protesters.6 The Green Protest Movement was repressed when the state put the presidential challengers under house arrest, a sniper killed a female protester, and hundreds were arrested and jailed. Meanwhile, women’s rights groups continued to maintain the online Feminist School (Madreseh-e Feministi), which had grown out of the One Million Signatures Campaign launched in 2007. The strong online presence of the Feminist School helped to produce “accidental activists” while also serving as a communication, recruiting, and coordinating tool within Iran and across the world. Not only in Tehran but in the provinces too, women’s rights activists used social networking sites to stay in touch with their counterparts across the country. Due to the campaign’s minimalist list of demands, activists were not exclusively feminist but were also social activists, including a number of young men, demanding changes in law and social equality for all. Our interviews with several accidental feminists and activists in Iran indicate that their encounter with social and women’s rights issues within cyberspace provided a safe environment to explore new venues and express their feelings of frustration with the status quo, or to express solidarity with women’s rights activists. Indeed, some of the activists come from the families of high-ranking officials in the Islamic regime. It should be noted that Iran’s “virtual public sphere” expanded considerably in the new century. Professional reporters who found

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themselves unemployed after the state shutdown of reformist newspapers began writing blogs in Iran, and this helped instigate cyberactivism in the country. For women activists of the One Million Signatures Campaign and the Stop Stoning Campaign, cyberactivism and the virtual public sphere made it possible for them to bypass the state and make transnational ties, in part through the bridging actions of the vast Iranian diaspora community (Tohidi 2010, 405; Moghadam and Gheytanchi 2010). Mourning Mothers in Iran echoed Gohar Eshghi’s demand to know the fate of her son, Sattar Eshghi, in prison after the 2009 events.7 Within the Iranian diaspora community in particular, the issues of women’s rights and political change have become more integrated than before. The repression of the Green Protests forced many dissidents into exile, including a number of the New Religious Intellectuals, free-thinking university professors, and feminist activists. The government considered cyberactivists “puppets of the United States,” seeking to carry out a “soft revolution” in Iran, and thus arrested and imprisoned many bloggers and women’s rights activists. Feminist activists who challenged women’s inequality in family laws and in the Islamic constitution were deemed a “threat to national security”; many were harassed or arrested, others forced into exile. Later, the Iranian government started a new wave of arrests of bloggers, women’s rights activists, and programmers (Farivar 2012). Despite state pressure, Iranian women’s rights activists have remained active and eager to exchange information with their counterparts in the Arab world and elsewhere.8 Tunisia

Turning to Tunisia, citizens grappled with authoritarianism, with occasional manifestations of opposition by the General Union of Tunisian Workers (the UGTT), feminist associations, and human rights groups (Tchaicha and Arfaoui 2011). Research shows that organizational resources may counterbalance the dampening effects of a closed political context, and Tunisia’s civil society grew across the decades. For example, since the late 1980s, women’s groups have decried fundamentalism and called for women’s equality, and since 1999, the Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates and the Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche et de Développement have militated for gender equality in matters of inheritance. In addition to helping form the Collectif 95 Maghreb-Egalité, Tunisian women’s groups have worked together and with other civil society associations on matters such as human rights, social welfare, and fair elections. Social and economic

222 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam development, a well-organized social provisioning system, and friendly ties with Europe as well as the Arab world and Africa ensured stability in Tunisia (Ben Romdhane 2006). But neoliberalism and the global recession took its toll on employment and the cost of living, while the 2010 WikiLeaks revelations of the corruption and self-enrichment of the president’s wife’s family enraged Tunisians. When a street vendor who was ordered to stop his trade resorted to self-immolation in December 2010 after being denied justice, his act seemed to symbolize a national protest against the collective loss of dignity. The tragedy triggered massive street protests the following January with slogans such as “Ben Ali, d’égage” ([President] Ben Ali, Leave) and “l’emploi, notre droit” (Employment Is Our Right). Leftists, secularists, feminists, trade unionists, and supporters of the long-banned Islamic movement all took to the streets, while young people kept up the momentum through social networking media (Khalil 2014a; Moghadam 2014a). Meanwhile, the internet had generally opened up space for Tunisian dissidents through blogs, discussion forums, and music. The Tunisian blog aggregator site was created in 2004 to highlight the work of high-profile bloggers and connect the blogger community. Contrary to Iran, where tech-savvy activists are barred from creating open software to enhance communications due to international sanctions, some parts of the Arab world have embraced the phenomenon. Al Jazeera was the first professional news organization to launch a Creative Commons repository in 2008, and in 2009 the station hosted the first Creative Commons Arab Meeting. Tech, free/open software, and Creative Commons events have contributed to building a regional community. Since 2008 Arab Techies Meetings have been held in Cairo, with a girls’ subgroup, Arab Women Techies, holding its first meeting in 2010 in Beirut. Many bloggers and tech community members supported the organization of “Nhar 3ala 3ammar,” a rally against online censorship on May 22, 2010. In 2011, the street demonstrations were captured on cell phone cameras and then uploaded as videos on known opposition sites and blogs, such as (created by blogger Lina Ben Mhenni),, and les Révolutionaires de la dignité, whose contents served as news feeds for satellite networks like Al Jazeera. Larbi Sadiki, writing for Al Jazeera online, noted that in the October 2011 elections, Ennahda may have won, but it did so in a context where 3 million eligible citizens did not register to vote, and of the 4 million who did register, few voted, giving Ennahda a plurality (40 percent of votes cast) rather than a sweeping majority of the electorate.9 As a result, Ennahda formed a coalition government with two

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secular political parties, which came to be known as the troika. This boded well for Tunisia’s democratic transition, despite the emergence of troublesome salafist groups. Women’s rights groups remained mobilized, insisting that there be no changes to the country’s fairly egalitarian family law, which, they pointed out, reflected the prevailing reality of family relations, and that women’s presence in political bodies be increased (Tchaichi and Arfaoui 2011). When in 2012 conservatives within the National Constituent Assembly sought to replace the constitutional language of women’s and men’s equality with complementarity, Tunisian feminists and cyberactivists launched national protests and a transnational petition drive that acquired over 30,000 signatures.10 The conservatives were compelled to back down. When in September 2012 a young woman sitting in a car with her boyfriend was brazenly detained on a “morals” charge and raped by police, cyberfeminist protests as well as street rallies continued until the police were finally sentenced to prison terms in March 2014 (Arfaoui and Moghadam 2016; Winter 2016, 521). Egypt

By the turn of the new century, Hosni Mubarak’s presidency had come to be equated with cronyism, rigged elections, and repression of any and all dissidence. The government’s crackdown on the Islamist terrorism of the 1990s was perhaps appreciated by many, but sweeping or arbitrary arrests were not. Neoliberal economic reforms deepened dissatisfaction. Indeed, between 2004 and 2010, nearly 2 million workers voiced grievances through strikes, sit-ins, and other forms of protest against poor living conditions caused by the erosion of wages, rising inflation, and precarious employment (Beinin 2010). At the same time, Egypt’s virtual public sphere and cyberactivism were expanding. In 2005, prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah introduced the concept of citizen journalism. A few weeks after the sexual harassment of women who were protesting at the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo, Fattah posted a blog entry: “Towards Popular Journalism” (, and later printed it as a pamphlet, distributing it during street demonstrations. Talk show hosts at satellite TV stations discussed it live. His post was read widely, and his ideas were taken seriously by activists and especially women and youth who had previously found themselves on the margins of opposition politics in Egypt. In 2008, the Egyptian “Facebook girl” Israa Abdel Rattah, a young woman in her twenties, used the new social medium to organize a campaign of civil disobedience to protest the deteriorating conditions of the average citizen. On the morning of a

224 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam general strike by workers scheduled to take place on April 6, 2008, she was arrested and detained for eighteen days. The violent suppression of the workers’ strike resulted in the formation of the 6th of April Youth Movement. Some Egyptian bloggers wrote of their empowering experiences participating in the online strike of April 6, 2009, which was organized on Facebook, and asked people to stay in their homes for a day to demonstrate solidarity with striking textile workers in the Delta (Beinen and Vairel 2011, 249). Meanwhile, the issue of sexual harassment of women had become a matter of national discussion, mainly as a result of awareness-raising by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR). A 2008 survey was picked up by the BBC World Service, while the ECWR itself had a global distribution list to which it disseminated its press releases.11 In addition to calling for the prosecution of men accused of sexually harassing women on the streets or at workplaces, the ECWR called for more integration of women in the political process (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012). On January 18, 2011, and in the aftermath of the Tunisian protests, the young woman Asmaa Mahfouz uploaded a short video to YouTube and Facebook in which she announced, “Whoever says women shouldn’t go to the protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me on January 25.” The same day, Wael Ghonim created a Facebook page in honor of Khaled Said, a young Egyptian blogger who had been killed by police in Alexandria. The Mahfouz video went viral, countless Egyptians learned about Khaled Said, and the planned one-day demonstration became a popular revolution. The diffusion of the Tunisian protests encouraged and indeed emboldened Egyptian activists to issue demands: increasing the minimum wage, combating poverty and unemployment, ending the state of emergency, and removing the minister of the interior. Soon it became a single demand: the departure of longtime president Hosni Mubarak. The temporary internet shutdown that marked the first week of revolt highlighted the significance of new and alternative media. One useful tool to Egyptian protesters was “Speak to tweet.” This tool created through collaboration of Google and Twitter allowed Egyptians to leave voice recordings by calling an international phone number. The recordings were automatically transcribed and posted as messages on Twitter, and the tweets were then picked up by a separate group of volunteers and translated into various languages on a website called “Alive in Egypt.” Camera cell phones, social media, opposition blogs, chat rooms, and Al Jazeera’s “continuous coverage” and advocacy journalism all served to form a feedback information loop, keeping

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the story alive, transmitting it to other Arab countries and to Western publics (Eltantawy and Wiest 2011, 1216). The experience of online and offline activism was empowering for many Egyptian women who had never before participated in a community with equal access and rights. That feeling, however, was short-lived, as women who came to Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, as well as to call for greater participation and rights for women in the new democratic Egypt, were assaulted by men who found their presence and demands objectionable. In December 2011, women protesters were assaulted by police, and one scene of a young woman being dragged away by police, her top clothing stripped to reveal a blue bra, and a policeman seemingly about to stomp on her stomach, immediately went viral, causing waves of outrage across the globe. These and subsequent outrages led to the formation of HarassMap, an Egyptian feminist group devoted to documenting violence against women and ensuring gender justice. Morocco

We now turn to Morocco, which similarly has been affected by the ICT revolution. It has a very high rate of internet usage (see Table 12.1), and women’s groups early on recognized the utility of the new social networking media. Morocco’s 20th February Youth Movement was part of the diffusion of the protests in neighboring Tunisia as well as Egypt, and it compelled King Mohammed VI to agree to constitutional changes and a referendum in July 2011 that would limit his vast powers. But the political reform was also part of a more gradual democratization process

Table 12.1 Internet and Facebook Usage in Iran, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, 2010–2015 Country

Internet Usage Facebook Usage Mobile Total Capital City (% penetration (% penetration Subscription Population Population rate) rate) (% penetration rate)

Iran 77,891,220 8,429,807 Egypt 82,079,636 17,947,121 Morocco 31,968,361 1,754,425 Tunisia 10,629,186 739,436

46.9 26.4 49.0 36.3

not available 11.4 12.7 26.3

84 82 92 90

Source: UN MDG Gap Task Force ( /mdg_gap/mdg_gap2011/mdggap_matrix_technology_2011.pdf) and Internet World Stats (; /stat/default.aspx).

226 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam that had begun in 1998 with the formation of a progressive government and included a twelve-year feminist campaign for family law reform that succeeded in 2003–2004. Morocco’s women’s movement has been a key participant in the country’s democratization process since at least the early 1990s, when it began to agitate for a more egalitarian family law and helped build the country’s nascent civil society. When the government of Prime Minister Yousefi declared its support for the Action Plan for Development and Women’s Rights, which included a section on the reform of the country’s very patriarchal family law, the Mudawanna, women’s groups formed an umbrella group called Chabaka (literally network in Arabic) and allied themselves with the government with the goal of promoting women’s rights, a democratic polity, and national development. Their communications strategy included narratives about the devastating effects of polygamy and unilateral male divorce on women, children, and the family. In the days before the widespread use of social networking media, the strategy of Moroccan women’s rights activists was to build consensus for the Action Plan. They sought to do this through a variety of research, advocacy, and awareness-raising activities, including publications, press releases, flyers, and advertisements and articles in the national dailies explaining the discriminatory provisions of legal texts in matters of repudiation, divorce, child support, and domestic violence (Moghadam and Gheytanchi 2010; Sadiqi and Ennaji 2006; Skalli 2007). Their allies in government instituted a series of “social dialogues” to promote the plan, and women’s groups also took to the streets in support of the plan and of women’s rights. Huge rallies for and against the plan and family law reform took place in March 2000. In the face of sustained hostility from Islamist forces, the government felt compelled to withdraw the plan. The women’s organizations pressed ahead, with a shift in strategy and framing. In a country overwhelmingly Muslim and pious, women’s groups formulated arguments rooted in an egalitarian interpretation of Islam, thus exercising ijtihad (reinterpretation of sharia-based jurisprudence to accommodate new conditions). Other frames were the imperatives of social development and poverty alleviation in Morocco, and the rights of women and children. The family law reform was rightly lauded as a landmark event. Moroccan women have continued to mobilize for women’s rights, online and offline (Skalli 2006, 2008), and they have also helped to raise awareness about the gender aspects of the democratic transitions in the region. In 2004, a national network of seventeen Moroccan women’s organizations and centers for battered women launched the website to promote women’s freedom from violence as “a

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right and not a privilege” (Skalli 2010). In May 2011, the Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc, in collaboration with a number of international partners, organized a seminar in Rabat on Women and Democratic Transitions in the MENA Region. The seminar was publicized online and diffused globally by its US-based partner, the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace.12 ICTs and the Networked Society The case studies above suggest the important role of new media activism for social change, giving voice to a new dissident public, including individual women and feminist groups. It redefines the terms of civic engagement, protest, and the public sphere, and illustrates the efficacy of transnational cyberactivism. The growth of internet use in Egypt, Iran, Morocco, and Tunisia illustrates the capacity of citizens to circumvent state censorship. While traditional civil society groups such as Tunisia’s UGTT and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood offered experience with logistics for the social movements and protest groups, the participatory environment of Web 2.0 allowed marginalized groups such as women to equally participate in the making of powerful social protests. The high rate of mobile penetration in some MENA countries, along with women’s technical expertise, goes to show the changing milieu of communication and collective action. In 2019, several MENA countries reported mobile penetration rates that exceeded the worldwide rate of 67 percent (Statista 2019). In Iran, an overwhelming majority of students in engineering and IT are women. According to one report, 70 percent of students in science and engineering are women (Guttman 2015). Two views of, or perspectives on, the internet may be identified: the optimistic and the pessimistic. Manuel Castells (1996), one of the first theorists of ICTs, coined the term “network society” to denote societies empowered by the internet and other communication technologies. Larry Diamond (2010) uses the term “liberation technology” to highlight the power of the internet and communication technologies for social activists in authoritarian regimes. Since the early days of the internet, the optimists have theorized the liberating power of ICTs. According to Deibert and Rohozinski (2010, 43), “No other mode of communication in human history has facilitated the democratization of communication to the same degree.” The pessimist view on ICTs has shed light on the fact that just as the activists can use the new technologies for their own purposes, so do authoritarian states use ICTs to exert pressure on the activists and censor dissent. Rebecca MacKinnon (2010),

228 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam for instance, has termed the Chinese government’s use of ICTs to censor and suppress dissent “networked authoritarianism.” There is truth to both perspectives. While authoritarian states do exert censorship on the internet and new communication technologies, the human rights activists and especially women’s rights activists find new and innovative ways to circumvent state censorship and widen their base inside and outside their respective countries. Some theorists have questioned the dichotomous relationship between state censorship and social activism via information and communication technologies. Deibert and Rohozinski (2010, 45) defy the dichotomy between liberation and control by stating the following: Cyberspace is a domain of intense competition, one that creates an ever changing matrix of opportunities and constraints for social forces and ideas. These social forces and ideas, in turn, are imbued with alternative rationalities that collide with one another and affect the structure of the communications environment. Unless the characteristics of cyberspace change radically in the near future and global culture become monolithic, linking technological properties to a single social outcome such as liberation or control is a highly dubious exercise.

In our chapter we have acknowledged both the opportunities and the risks of cyberactivism. The state does police the internet, and activists who cross certain “red lines” may be harassed, arrested, charged with sedition, or forced to shut down their site. This has occurred in Iran, both in 2009 and in the new cycle of protests that broke out in late December 2017, but even in mature democracies such as the United States, dissident journalism can face serious charges—as occurred with WikiLeaks in the aftermath of the release of classified US diplomatic cables in 2010–2011. In addition, networked movements may experience diffuse grievances, goals, tactics, and the lack of a central coordinating body, making the movement vulnerable to fragmentation, co-optation, or dissipation. At the same time, cyberspace does create an opportunity structure for activists within and across borders. The anonymity that it permits has enabled the diffusion of women’s rights issues within a national public sphere and across transnational social space. The internet thus becomes an indispensable tool for women struggling for change within authoritarian or patriarchal contexts. Indeed, the massive participation of women in online and offline protests is indicative of the significant changes that have occurred in key characteristics of the female population in the MENA: women are more socially and politically aware, educated, employed, connected, and assertive. The pres-

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ence of so many female bloggers is itself a sign of women’s growing assertion, self-organizing, cultural change, or changing gender roles. Access to the internet and familiarity with social media networking has allowed women to blog, make appeals to national and international publics, and film and post protests, rallies, and street demonstrations. We agree with MacKinnon (2010, 6): “Interactive participatory media transforms a one-way conversation between media and ‘audience’ into a conversation with an information community. While information flows through traditional media in a linear fashion, information flows through online participatory media in a multidirectional, self-replicating viral fashion.” Women who participate in this information community tend to experience trust and two-way communication with other members of the community. What is more, women’s access to the new ICTs in the MENA and their contributions to the virtual public sphere may help to transform attitudes toward women’s participation and rights. Ethnographic studies of women’s use of the internet and mobile technology in MENA countries shows that an incremental social change regarding gender roles is under way. As Deborah Wheeler (2005, 100) has noted, “the Internet, if it does empower, does so through the small windows of opportunity created by the technology and its users as they work in tandem or isolation to subvert norms and social orders.” We have provided but a few examples: Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign and the Feminist School; the Moroccan campaign for family law reform and the outburst over the tragic death of Amina Filali; Egypt’s women’s rights campaign against sexual harassment and protests against the postrevolutionary exclusion of women; and Tunisian feminists’ protests against police abuse and constitutional backsliding, and their insistence on maintaining a presence in governance. In all these cases, women’s rights activists tied their claims to wider social and political demands for democratization, participation, and rights (Moghadam 2013, chap. 7; 2017). In his comprehensive study of Muslim communities, Howard (2010, 10) found that “new information technologies have contributed to democratic entrenchment or transition in countries with large Muslim communities.” One of the ways democratization is linked to ICTs is the widespread use of blogs. Men and women are able to freely express their political viewpoints in blogs leading to unprecedented inclusive and dynamic public discussions of previously taboo subjects such as women’s rights. Among the bloggers are women in disguise who are writing with pseudonyms, interested individuals, and state officials who have found a safe haven in the blogosphere for expressing their views independent of state policy.

230 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam The widening of the virtual public sphere allowing for more discussions on gender roles and criticism of restrictive state policies regarding gender roles is further made possible by circumvention tools. In the MENA, people are viewing websites despite state censorship via circumvention tools, virtual privacy networks, and alternative routing. Some of these projects, in Arab countries, are funded partly by the US State Department: “Internet in a Suitcase”13 and various other US-based initiatives (Salime 2010). While activists are not necessarily the ones developing the circumvention tools, they are the primary beneficiary group. Highlighting the impact of “computer mediated communication” on social movements, Diani (2000, 387) writes, “The potential to build ‘virtual [social movement] communities’ seems highest among sympathizers of movement organizations who act professionally on behalf of causes with vast resonance among the public opinion and low radical potential.” There are many internet sites (e.g., Tavaanaa, Balatarin, Iranemrooz) run by activists in diaspora that have attracted traffic in the past few years.14 The internet allows activists to connect with each other as well as with sympathizers outside their country. The explosion of blog posts by women in the MENA has implications for two important aspects of social movement theorizing. In terms of framing, women as citizen journalists change the framing of social and political protest. They make protest sound and look more democratic, more inclusive, and nonviolent; and they insert issues of women’s participation and rights into the discourse. With respect to political opportunity, women bloggers and citizen journalists are able to use political openings or closures to their advantage through ICTs, thus constructing and constituting their own political opportunity structure. The domestic links or transnational ties that are created may occur informally as interested individuals discuss women’s rights and what is happening in their countries with regard to women’s rights and daily struggles. As Goldfarb (2006, 141) observes, “The Internet favors a democratic politics of small things.” Although the digital divide along the lines of gender roles still exists in the Arab world, opportunities are increasing for women to become active in local social movements (Huyer and Sikosha 2003). The Arab uprisings of 2011–2012 showed that many women had been waiting for an opportunity to demonstrate their discontent with the status quo as they had become ever more informed about women’s disadvantages in their countries. As young people in the MENA are now more connected with each other through online narratives that were previously censored by the states (Peterson 2011), young women are increasingly engaged in public debates about their rights.

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In the wake of Iran’s Green Protests and the Arab Spring, there is more public recognition of women’s roles in the uprisings and demands for more participation and representation by women. For example, Lebanese feminists called for a march to draw attention to the role of women in the Arab Spring.15 The convening of the World Social Forum in Tunis in March 2013 and March 2015 provided additional opportunities for women across the region, and with partners across the globe, to coordinate activities and organize workshops and dialogues on women’s rights. In response to the nationwide protests in Iran in late December 2017, feminists in the diaspora launched a cyber campaign in support of the protests and especially the right of Iranian women to choose to veil or not. The introduction of ICTs in the MENA has opened up the public sphere and offered new opportunities for social movements in general and women’s movements in particular, along with opportunities for coalitions and collaborations across movements and countries. Conclusion Nisbet and Myers assert that “transnational media may increase the salience of alternative collective political identities at the expense of nation-state-centric identities” (2010, 350; emphasis added). In his comparative study of Arab Spring protests in the MENA, Howard (2010, 113) concludes that “in every single case, the inciting incidents of the Arab Spring were digitally mediated.” While national identities are arguably not superseded, one complementary source of identity is certainly feminist, or women’s rights activist. This is especially significant given that authoritarian states and Islamist movements alike have viewed feminism as a Western phenomenon, culturally alien, and an imported ideology. By claiming the virtual public sphere, actively participating in street protests, or asserting themselves as women’s rights activists, MENA women have been changing the nature of social movements and of public discourses. It is important to note that women’s rights activists pose a threat to Islamic extremists in their respective countries, and vice versa. We conclude with three propositions. First, women’s struggles for civil, political, and social rights are now part of the series of factors that led to the mass social upheavals in the MENA—and continue to do so. A recent vivid example comes from Algeria, where in the midst of protests in February 2019 against a fifth term for the ailing president, a group of feminist intellectuals penned a statement of support and called for social and gender equality (HuffPost Algérie 2019). It is, therefore,

232 Elham Gheytanchi and Valentine M. Moghadam no longer possible to treat women’s activism as an isolated phenomenon. Second, women as citizen journalists have been changing the way that issues are framed as well as helping to alter the political opportunity structure. Women’s presence has historically signaled nonviolent movements that aim to bring social change through peaceful means, while their non-hierarchical associations and networks have made it easier to forge coalitions. Third, by becoming citizen journalists and writing about social and political protest, women become media activists and undercut the communication power and control of the state. It remains to be seen, however, if the domestic links and coalitions within which women activists participate are able to undermine existing patriarchal structures and bring about the more open, democratic, and egalitarian societies to which the region’s feminists have long aspired. Notes 1. By December 2017, internet penetration had only increased to 32.6 percent in Syria. See Internet World Stats, “Usage and Population Statistics,” www.internetworldstats .com/middle.htm, accessed August 22, 2019. 2. We should point out that the population that has direct access to the internet is a minority in some countries in the MENA, but as Howard and Hussein (2012, 122) point out in the case of Egypt and Tunisia, “this minority is a strategic one, typically comprising an elite that is made up of educated professionals, young entrepreneurs, urban dwellers, and government workers.” Elsewhere in the MENA, a large proportion (35–45 percent) are using the internet and social networking sites, and many subscribers share internet access with families and friends. 3. There are numerous websites, social networking sites, blogs, and tweets on the topic of women’s voices in the new Middle East. One example is this popular Facebook page entitled “The Uprising of Women in the Arab World” ( .almar2a), and another is the Women’s Learning Partnership (www.learningpartnership .org). Country-specific examples include those in Iran (,, and, Morocco ( and, Egypt (,, and, and Tunisia (, www, and 4. Author interview with an activist in Iran in 2009. 5. New ICTs, of course, do not replace the old mass media such as TV and radio. A survey of media habits and trust among the general Iranian public was conducted by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors in collaboration with Gallup, and the Iran Media Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communications. When asked to select their three most important news sources from a list provided, TV was the first choice for 96 percent of the sample, followed by the press (45 percent), and friends and family (38 percent). See http://iranmediaresearch .org/en/research/pdffile/990. 6. See the following 2009 sources: /iran.305/; BBC News, “Internet Brings Events in Iran to Life,” June 15, 2009,; Angela Moscaritolo, “Iran

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Election Protesters Use Twitter to Recruit Hackers,” SC Magazine, June 15, 2009, /article/138545/. 7. See 8. The site, in Persian, emerged to allow women to exchange their experiences regarding activism in Iran and the Arab world; for a report of the March 8, 2012, (International Women’s Day) celebration in Tehran by women’s rights activists see 9. Larbi Sadiki, “The Arab Spring: Voting Islamism,” Al Jazeera, December 7, 2011, 10. See _femme_en_Tunisie/. 11. See, for example, See also 12. See “News from May 2011 Rabat Convening on Women and the Political Transitions in the MENA Region, and a Call for Action,” www.learningpartnership .org/print/3940. 13. See 14. These websites oppose the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policies toward women, minorities, and freedom of speech. They have acquired supporters within the US government, which funds them. For an overview of programs promoted by USAID see -democracy-promotion-please-usaid/. 15. Najat Al-Saeid, “No Arab Spring Without Women,” Al Arabiya, January 25, 2012,

13 Rethinking Gender in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa J. Michael Ryan and Helen Rizzo

The previous chapters provided regional perspectives on some of the important institutions and issues that are gendered and have gendered implications and consequences. They highlight the diversity across the MENA region in terms of gender regimes, laws regarding personal status and citizenship, family structures and dynamics, politics and development, and feminism and social movements. They also demonstrate the importance of taking an intersectional approach to the institutions and issues being discussed. Understanding gender in the MENA region is not complete without recognizing its intersections with religious status, social class, age, sexualities, race, ethnicity, language, and family status. We want the readers of the volume to conclude that the MENA region is not monolithic, nor are its cultures and societies unchanging and static, especially when it comes to gender. One of the enduring popular images of the MENA region is that the societies and cultures in the region are unchanging patriarchies. In particular, Middle Eastern men are stereotyped as violent terrorists, hypersexual and misogynistic abusers, while Middle Eastern women are seen as submissive and weak and oppressed by men in the region. Historically, this region of the world was part of the classic patriarchal zone that spanned from Morocco in the west through North Africa and the Muslim Middle East, including Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan and into South and East Asia, particularly India and China (Kandiyoti 1988). Characteristic of agrarian societies, Joseph (1993, 459) defined classic patriarchy as a system and an ideology in which males and elders in extended families are privileged; male control over female sexuality is 235

236 J. Michael Ryan and Helen Rizzo institutionalized; and kinship terms, structures, and morality are used to legitimize gendered and aged inequalities. “Girls are given away in marriage at a very young age into households headed by their husband’s father. There, they are subordinate not only to all the men but also to the more senior women, especially their mother-in-law” (Kandiyoti 1988, 278). However, “patriarchy in Arab societies takes different forms as it intersects with various state, class, religious, ethnic and rural/urban systems. The dominance of male kin and elders, however, is culturally sanctioned by Arab societies at large and reinforced by state institutions, ideologies and processes” (Joseph 1993, 460). Whereas the MENA region has experienced social changes resulting from urbanization and industrialization, parts of the patriarchal system are still being reinforced even as the material base for classic patriarchy is breaking down. Moghadam (2013, 96) argues that the patriarchal gender contract, which is the “agreement that men are the breadwinners and are responsible for financially maintaining their wives, children, and elderly parents, and that women are wives, homemakers, mothers and caregivers,” still has power. It is used to justify men’s control of the economic and political spheres while relegating women to the private sphere of the family. Patriarchal interpretations of Islamic teachings on complementary gender roles further legitimize the contract. Because classic patriarchy has been breaking down in the region over the last 100 years, this has resulted in putting the patriarchal gender contract under pressure. Scholars such as Hisham Sharabi, Valentine M. Moghadam, and Deniz Kandiyoti are using the concept of neopatriarchy to describe how patriarchy is changing in the MENA region and beyond. Neopatriarchy is a modernized form of patriarchy that was a result of capitalist penetration into the economy that undermined the classic and private patriarchy of the extended family and moved women’s dependence and loyalty from the family to the state. In neopatriarchy, patriarchy is no longer confined to the private sphere. It is a partial emancipation of women through education and partial access to the labor force and political realm as the various chapters of this volume point out. Turkey under Ataturk and Egypt under Nasser promoted this not only because they thought that increasing women’s access to the public sphere through education, unveiling, working, and some political rights was a sign of modernity and a way to partially legitimize the authority of the state, but it was a way to win women’s loyalty to them and away from their extended families and tribes, which would lessen the power of kinship networks that may challenge the power of the state. However, the state also

Rethinking Gender


plays a role in reinforcing some aspects of patriarchy as many of the chapters in this volume also highlight. In some societies, the state, by recognizing the male as the head of the nuclear family household, leads the man to receive “modern” state benefits directly (housing and children allowances, for example, in Gulf countries) while the women can only access these benefits through dependence on the male citizen (having a father or husband who is a citizen). Personal status laws that govern marriage, divorce, and inheritance still favor men with some variations in the MENA region as well as citizenship rights (nationality is passed through the father and not the mother with a couple of exceptions, women having reduced formal political and civil rights in some societies like Saudi Arabia). And states in the region will allow religious institutions, Islamists, and kin-based groups to have power over the personal status laws as part of a compromise to allow the state to have more control over the political and economic systems. As a result, the private patriarchal nuclear family and the neopatriarchal state reinforce each other. Thus state policies are contradictory—providing women some public rights and access to the public sphere while restricting their rights within the family (Kandiyoti 1994; Moghadam 2013; Sharabi 1988). Thus, classic patriarchy and the ideal of the patriarchal gender contract are becoming less and less a reality in the MENA region due to social changes that have taken place, particularly since the 1960s. These include urbanization with associated decreases in family size and more access to birth control; increasing income and work opportunities outside the household for women, resulting in increased autonomy and decisionmaking power within the household due to capitalism, industrialization, and modernization; disintegration of the extended family and the increase in nuclear family formation; decrease in arranged marriages and marriages between cousins; rising divorce rates; increase in female-headed households through death or divorce; increasing age of marriage for both males and females; improvements in health care for all and in reproductive health for women; rising educational levels of all groups but especially women; rural to urban migration; and women entering the public realm (i.e., education, jobs, politics) in greater numbers, including increased use of public space (King-Irani 2008; Moghadam 2013; Taraki 2008). However, as mentioned previously, neopatriarchy—a characteristic of all types of political regimes (monarchies and republics, radical or conservative, socialist or capitalist), relations, and institutions in the Middle East and North Africa—is patriarchy that has adapted to “modern, urban life” that affects both macrostructures (society, the state, the

238 J. Michael Ryan and Helen Rizzo economy) and microstructures (family or individual). As a result, public aspects of the family, state, or society look modern, but the internal structures remain rooted in patriarchal values and social relations of kinship, clan, and religious and ethnic groups. As noted earlier, the central feature of neopatriarchy is the dominance of the father within the nuclear family household and at the level of the state. Some clear examples that have been noted in this volume include “modern” personal status laws that regulate marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance that reinforce the patriarchal gender contract in which the husband is the head of the household while the wife must obey him. Women’s public roles have dramatically changed, especially since the 1960s, but men’s roles within the nuclear family household have not yet. Many women still do the majority of the household labor even when working outside the home and are deferential to their husbands in terms of decisionmaking; they seek their husband’s permission to do various activities that require them to leave the house, like visiting friends or relatives. Finally, in terms of social rights (more prevalent in Gulf societies), the state gives men, as heads of nuclear families, benefits such as housing allowances when they marry and stipends when they have children. However, women do not have direct access to these social rights, which again reinforces the patriarchal gender contract that men are in charge of the resources and women can only access these benefits through their dependent relationships with husbands and fathers (Moghadam 2013; Rizzo 2007; Sharabi 1988). In sum, we hope that we have provided useful reviews of the literature on important topics from a regional perspective for scholars in the field of gender and women’s studies in the MENA region. We also hope that we have provided important insights on social change in the MENA region based on an intersectional perspective from diverse societies for undergraduate and graduate students as well as for the interested lay reader. We hope this work will provide a solid foundation for those who will do further in-depth research on the ever-changing dynamics of gender in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa.


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The Contributors

Angie Abdelmonem is a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow and faculty associate, Arizona State University.

Gary Barker is a researcher at the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra and president and chief executive officer of Promundo-US.

Michaelle Browers is professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University. Shereen El Feki is regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Promundo.

Elham Gheytanchi is an associate faculty member at Santa Monica College.

Islah Jad is associate professor of political science at Bir Zeit University.

Chelsea Marty is a guidance specialist for Upward Bound at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

Valentine M. Moghadam is professor of sociology and international affairs at Northeastern University. Stefanie E. Nanes is associate professor of political science at Hofstra University. 275

276 The Contributors Alexandra Parrs is research associate at the Center for Migration and Intercultural Studies (CeMIS), University of Antwerp.

Anne M. Price is associate professor of sociology at Valdosta State University.

Helen Rizzo is associate professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo. J. Michael Ryan is assistant professor of sociology at Nazarbayev University.

Nadia Sonneveld is assistant professor in the faculty of law at Leiden University. Amina Zarrugh is assistant professor of sociology at Texas Christian University.

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About the Book

The role of gender in the Middle East and North Africa is widely discussed—but often little understood. Seeking to close that gap, the authors of this comprehensive study explore a wide range of issues related to gender in the region as they have been unfolding since the Arab Spring. J. Michael Ryan is assistant professor of sociology at Nazarbayev University. Helen Rizzo is associate professor of sociology at the

American University in Cairo.