Survey Reveals Positive Statistics on Attitudes to Gender Equality in the Arab World
According to the survey, less than 50% of Moroccans think that the man of the house should make the decisions.
Rabat – A survey of more than 25,000 people across ten countries and the Palestinian territories conducted by BBC News Arabic and Arab Barometer research network in 2018-2019, had a lot to reveal about the Arab world’s stance on women’s rights and the LGBT community.
According to studies on Human Rights, women in the Arab World have been subject to discrimination and restrictions of their freedoms for years.
Some of these deprivations are a result of religious beliefs, but many have been limitations caused by cultural particularities that are deeply ingrained in the Arab world’s tradition and mentality even nowadays.
Most people across the region supported the right of a woman to become prime minister or president. The exception was Algeria where less than 50% of those questioned agreed that a woman could potentially become head of a state.
In 91% of the places surveyed, the majority agreed that women should be allowed to serve as head of government in a Muslim country, but the same margin also claimed that men are better political figures.
The notion of a female political president or prime minister was mostly accepted in Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia.
But when it came to domestic life, the majority of respondents – including a majority of women – claimed that husbands should always have the final say on family decisions.
Morocco was the only exception, where fewer than half the population thinks a husband should always be the ultimate decision-maker.
Dima Dabbous, Equality Now’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the contradictory results were “indicative of the dominant mood in the region”.
“There is a realization that gender equality is a marker of progress and the ‘right thing’ to say is to support women empowerment. But when the framing of the question focuses on the role of men, then the real patriarchal, male-centric bias comes to the surface,” Dabbous said.
“Women in the Middle East and North Africa are getting more educated and participating increasingly in the labor force, but their empowerment will remain incomplete as long as they are still excluded from decision-making positions and political participation,” she added.
Read also: SDG Gender Index Ranks Morocco 88th out of 129 Countries
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens generally have a highly restrictive lifestyle in most parts of the Middle East region, with many members of the community having experienced threats and hostility which has led them to conceal their sexual preferences.
Homosexuality is illegal in ten out of 18 countries that make up the region. The rights and freedoms of LGBT citizens are significantly affected by the cultural traditions and the religious practices of the Arab world which firmly oppose them.
According to the study’s results, acceptance of homosexuality varies but is low or extremely low across the region. Despite having a reputation for being more socially liberal than its neighbors, Lebanon has a 6% acceptance towards homosexuality; the second lowest one after West Bank.
For taboo or difficult questions, respondents were asked to select “acceptable practices” from a series of options. The results suggested that “honour” killings were more acceptable than being gay in all the countries where this question was asked, besides Algeria.
In Algeria, 26% of respondents said being gay was acceptable, while 27% believed “honor” killings were acceptable; in Morocco, the statistics were 21% and 25%, while in Jordan, the figures were 7% and 21%.
Sudan was the only country where a greater number of respondents found homosexuality more acceptable than “honor” killings (17% vs 14%).
An honor killing is one in which relatives kill a family member, typically a woman, for allegedly bringing dishonor into the family.
“Of course, ‘honor’ killings are more acceptable than homosexuality. [They] preserve a social order based on ‘male honor’ and dominant masculinity – which is heterosexual – while homosexuality is a threat to it,” Dabbous said.