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Arab Spring raises questions for female emancipation


Summary of story from CNN, November 3, 2011

A US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee has heard that, despite the struggle against oppression in portions of the Arab world, rights and opportunities for women are at risk.

Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, said: “No country can get ahead when it leaves half of its people behind, and doesn’t allow women an opportunity to participate in the economic development of their societies.”

She said that Tunisia, with its history of enshrining rights for women in its constitution, showed great promise.

On the other hand, Egypt is “extremely complicated and worrisome.” No women were on the committee that drafted Egypt’s transitional constitutional declaration and its cabinet has only one female member, she pointed out.

Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has no female governors, and some conservative and political forces are calling for a rollback of women’s rights.

Senator Jim DeMint expressed concern about the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim societies. He also questioned the role of women in Libya, in light of recent calls by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to enact Islamic law in the country.

Verveer noted the NTC’s claim that they have no intention of establishing an Islamic theocracy, but added that: “vigilance is critical, speaking out against violations is critical.”

The US, which has yet to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, should now do so, said Senator Barbara Boxer. Otherwise repressive governments could use that omission as a pretext to avoid their own obligations under it.

The UN sponsored treaty has languished in the US Senate since its adoption in 1979.

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