A new survey of gender experts finds that in the Arab world, Egyptian women face the worst treatment. Here, women attend a political march to the presidential palace in Cairo in February. Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
Citing high rates of sexual harassment and female genital mutilation, a new survey finds that women in Egypt face the worst treatment in any Arab country. Other countries with high levels of unrest — Iraq and Syria — are also among the worst for women, along with Saudi Arabia, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
To conduct the study of 22 Arab countries, 336 gender experts were asked questions based on the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women at the end of this summer. The questions dealt with topics ranging from the role of women in politics and business to reproductive rights and violence against women.
The five nations with the best showing were (in descending order) Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.
The five worst were Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.
The survey’s findings are seen as another blow to women who had hoped that the Arab Spring revolutions would bring more freedom and opportunity. Of the countries that recently had regime changes, only Tunisia (No. 6) and Libya (No. 9) were in the top 10 of the survey’s findings.
We’ll caution, as the survey’s authors did, that it’s possible respondents might allow recent events to inform their view of a nation’s overall treatment of women.
“It’s important to bear in mind this is a perception poll,” Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa tells Ahram Online, “meaning it is based on gender experts’ perception of women’s rights across the Arab League countries.”
The data generated a mixed view of Saudi Arabia, where women lack essential rights and routinely face discrimination.
“But Saudi scored better than many other Arab states when it came to access to education and healthcare, reproductive rights and gender violence,” writes Reuters’ Angus McDowall.
Here’s the picture of Egypt depicted in the survey: 99.3 percent of women and girls are subjected to sexual harassment; more than 27 million are the victims of genital cutting — “the largest number in a single country in the world,” the authors say, citing a UNICEF study that has also been cited by NPR.
“We removed the Mubarak from our presidential palace but we still have to remove the Mubarak who lives in our minds and in our bedrooms,” Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy tells Reuters, referring to deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. “As the miserable poll results show, we women need a double revolution, one against the various dictators who’ve ruined our countries and the other against a toxic mix of culture and religion that ruin our lives as women.”
The news agency notes that all of the nations mentioned above — and all of the nations in the Arab League except Somalia and Sudan — have signed or ratified the U.N.’s convention to end discrimination against women.