July 8, 2013

The Question of State-Feminism in the Gulf

The question of how the Arab uprisings have and will affect the lives and rights of women in the region is particularly significant in the Arab Gulf states.
Women in this part of the region find themselves faced with two challenges: the efficiency of state-driven feminism on one side, and their struggle to push for their rights in the public arena on the other. Both the state and social forces often fail to prioritise women's rights with the result that women are compelled to negotiate their rights within these two spheres.
In Kuwait, educated women of the upper and middle classes have fought for decades for their rights to vote and to run in parliamentary elections. In 2005, they were granted those political rights despite opposition from Islamists. Throughout their struggle, those activists recognised the state as their supporter.
Elitist rights activists in Kuwait continue to reproduce a stereotypical image of feminism as a struggle for the rights of certain women. Female politicians and activists, until the Arab uprisings, had not campaigned for the rights of Kuwaiti women married to foreign men. They failed to highlight issues of women who are not educated, do not have jobs or come from marginalised and underprivileged groups. They continue to view gender equality in terms of having more official posts and power sharing. They do not ask how society can support these women while being dependent on the state.

* Continue reading here: The National

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