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Autor:   •  October 8, 2010  •  4,619 Words (19 Pages)  •  772 Views

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Four important challenges confronted women in the 1990s: increasing practical literacy, gaining access to employment opportunities at all levels in the economy, promoting change in the perception of women's roles and status, and gaining a public voice both within and outside political process.

There have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving women's lives during the twentieth century. Indeed there may be contradictions inherent in the gender agenda of some nationalist projects, yet more and more steps are being taken so women can participate actively in programs especially in the area of the physical sciences. This is an area where women are now becoming more and more recognized. In the nineteenth century there was a struggle to introduce female education, to ease some of the restrictions on women's activities. Yet more and more, women began to be active participants and many of the earliest proponents of education improved social status for women. They advocated cooking and sewing classes conducted in a religious framework to advance women's knowledge and skills. Feminists campaigned for increased breast cancer research, more convenient and cheaper contraceptive methods. Research on the physiology of menopause and elimination of unnecessary surgical interventions such as hysterectomies, Cesarean sections and radical mastectomies. These campaigns were supported by several advocacy groups. In 1990 the U.S. National Institute of Health established the Office of Research on Women's Health and launched the Women's Health Initiative to redress gender inequities in medical research. (Creager & Schiebinger).

For the women in developing countries, for example, promoting the education of women was a first step in moving beyond the constraints. The nationalist struggle helped fray the threads in socially imposed curtains. Simultaneously, women's roles were questioned, and their empowerment was linked to the larger issues of nationalism and independence (ibid).

A review of Muslim history and culture brings to light many areas in which Qur'anic teaching notwithstanding, women continued to be subjected to diverse forms of oppression and injustice, often in the name of Islam, while the Qur'an because of its protective attitude toward all downtrodden and oppressed classes of people, appears to be weighted in many ways in favor of women. Many of its women-related teachings have been used in patriarchal Muslim societies against, rather than for, women. Muslim societies, in general, appear to be far more concerned with trying to control women's bodies and sexuality than with their human rights. They either do not speak of women's rights at all, or are mainly concerned with how women's chastity may be protected (Abdullah, 1988).

Women are the targets of the most serious violations of human rights, which occur in Muslim societies in general. Muslims say with great pride that Islam abolished female infanticide; true but it must also be mentioned that one of the most common crimes in a number of Muslim countries is the murder of women by their husbands. These so-called "honor-killings" are, in fact, extremely dishonorable and are frequently used to camouflage other kinds of crimes (ibid).

Female children are discriminated against from the moment of birth, for it is customary in Muslim societies to regard a son as a gift, and a daughter as a trial from God. Therefore, the birth of a son is an occasion for celebration while the birth of a daughter calls for commiseration if not lamentation. Many girls are married when they are still minors, even though marriage in Islam is a contract and presupposes that the contracting parties are both consenting adults. Even though so much Qur'anic legislation is aimed at protecting the rights of women in the context of marriage, women cannot claim equality with their husbands. The husband, in fact, is regarded as his wife's gateway to heaven or hell and the arbiter of her final destiny. That such an idea can exist within the framework of Islam - which, in theory, rejects the idea of there being any intermediary between a believer and God - represents both a profound irony and great tragedy (ibid).

At any rate, the Women's Action Forum was formed to respond to the implementation of the penal code and to strengthen women's position in society in general. Usually, only the poorest women engage in work - often as midwives, sweepers or nannies - for compensation outside the home. More often, poor urban women remain at home and sell manufactured goods to a middleman for compensation. More and more urban women have engaged in such activities during the 1990s, although to avoid being shamed, few families willingly admit that women contribute to the family economically. Hence, there is little information about the work women do in these developing countries. Because of the fiction that most women do no work other than their domestic chores, some governments have been hesitant to adopt overt policies to increase women's employment options and to provide legal support for women's labor force participation (ibid).

A melding of the traditional social welfare activities of the women's movement and its newly revised political activism appears to have occurred. Diverse groups are supporting small-scale projects that focus on empowering women. They have been involved in such activities as instituting legal aid for indigent women, opposing the gendered segregation of universities, and publicizing and condemning the growing incidents of violence against women.

For the past years, there have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving Muslim women's lives in the subcontinent during the twentieth century. These attempts generally have been related to two broader, intertwined movements: the social reform movement in British India and the growing Muslim nationalist movement. Since partition, the changing status of women has been largely linked with discourse about the role of Islam in a modern state. This debate concerns the extent to which civil rights common in most Western democracies are appropriate in an Islamic society and the way these rights should be reconciled with Islamic family law (Abdullah, 1988).

For example, although the Qur'an presents the idea of what we today call a "no-fault' divorce and does not make any adverse judgments about divorce, Muslim societies have made divorce extremely difficult for women, both legally and through social penalties. Although the Qur'an states clearly that the divorced parents of a minor child must decide by mutual consultation how the child is to be raised and that they must not use the child to hurt or exploit each other, in most Muslim societies, women are


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