Women’s Rights The social position of Muslim women differs tthroughout time periods and countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The consequences of breaking the laws in these nations differ as well. In addition, different social factors affect the way Muslim women are treated. These social positions are perceived differently amongst men and women in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the leaders of the past Resistance turned Muslim Afghanistan into a strict theocratic state by incorporating religion into the state laws.
This theocratic state, also known as the Islamic state of Afghanistan, along with the mujahideen, limited women’s rights in 1992 (Goodwin, 2003:78). Specifically, women are required to follow a strict dress code of wearing proper veils and are banned from watching television or listening to the radio. When a Muslim woman gets married, she becomes her in-law’s property. Women are also prohibited from working, wearing perfume, receiving an education, participating in political elections and showing any body part that can be considered erotically enticing.
In addition, a Muslim woman cannot talk to men that are not related to her (Goodwin, 2003:78-79). One reason women’s rights are restricted is the lack of education and illiteracy of Afghan women. Being illiterate prevents a woman from studying Islam. Therefore, when someone tells her something is Islamic, she automatically believes him because she has no way of knowing otherwise. Not only does illiteracy prevent Muslim women from studying Islam, but it also prevents them from studying their legal rights and the Qur’an. Studying the Qur’an and legal rights would cause women to understand what really is Islamic.
Women may lack knowledge of how women live in other nations. Therefore, these women do not resist their lack of rights because they are uninformed of alternative lifestyles of women. In 1921, women’s rights drastically changed. The veil was banned and the first school for girls opened (Goodwin, 2003:88 and 90). In 1964, the constitution of Afghanistan granted equal status to men and women and coeducation (Goodwin, 2003:89). Communism did take over Afghanistan after that event and Aghanistan’s laws for women became much more conservative.
Hamida, a college-educated Afghan woman had to stay home with other women and wear the traditional veil due to the drastic change in women’s rights. She greatly suffered and experienced many physical problems due to the drastic change in rights. Her level of education may have been a factor to her sthrong reaction (Goodwin, 2003:91). Hamida’s reaction demonstrates how educated women have a sthronger negative reaction than uneducated women in terms of restrictions. In Iran, women must wear their hijab properly and remain entirely covered in public as soon as they are mature enough to be married.
Women are considered mature enough to marry by the age of 9 (Goodwin, 2003:107). According to Zahra Qasim, a store clerk in Iran, dress restrictions are not always formally written down, so rules are somewhat unclear, which leads to women being punished due to laws they are unaware of (Goodwin, 2003:108). Banning the veil could be perceived just as oppressive if not more, than requiring women to wear a veil. Due to banning the veil, some women feel uncomfortable going in public without a veil, causing women to avoid going out in public whenever possible (Hoodfar, 1993).
Therefore, wearing the veil in Iran is part of culture and society in Iran. Another reason behind the dress restrictions is husbands feel in control when their wives wear a veil (Goodwin, 2003:109). Rahnavard has a different perspective on the veil. She believes “women in the west have been enslaved by fashion, makeup, and turned into objects of sexual attention. “The veil frees women from the shackles of fashion and enables them to become human beings in their own right,’ she claimed. Once people cease to be distracted by women’s physical appearance, they can begin to hear their views and recognize the inner person’” (Goodwin, 2003: 112-113). Therefore, Rahnavard believes Western women are more oppressed than Muslim women. The veil protects women from being judged and discriminated based on physical appearance, something western women are not protected from. Despite the positive perspectives of the veil in Iran, there are discrepancies between the rights of men and women. Despite the positive perspectives of the veil in Iran, there are discrepancies between the rights of men and women.
Maryam Rajavi ran the mujahideen with her husband and mobilized Iranian women against suppressive regimes, which was the cause of many supporters of Shah to attempt to assassinate Rajavi. Although they did not assassinate Rajavie, they were successful in executing two of her sisters (Goodwin, 2003: 122). Such aassassinations demonstrate how many Iranians sthrongly appose a change in women’s rights. When women fail to follow the rules Iran reinforces, the common punishment involves whipping the woman. Jan Goodwin explains the experience of being whipped as “The lack of power, being robbed of all dignity.
It was a disgusting experience, so degrading, and as violating in its way as rape” (Goodwin, 2003: 112). Within Iran, there are inequalities amongst men and women. For instance, laws in terms of execution differ among genders. Girls have to be at least 9 years old to be executed while boys have to be at least 16 years old (Goodwin, 2003:115). Women can not divorce without the husband’s consent. When a divorce does occur, the husband typically gets custody of the children (Goodwin, 2003:114). In addition, women must remain virgins before mmarriage. Within the Islamic religion, it is believed virgins automatically go to Paradise following death.
This is not necessarily the case for women that lose their virginity before mmarriage. If it is discovered that an unmarried woman is not a virgin, they may be forced to get married (Goodwin, 2003:115). Ssimilarly to Iranian laws, Pakistan also prohibits sex before mmarriage, which is termed as Zina laws. A large ppercentage of the women in Pakistan experience punishment for committing Zina. When a woman commits Zina, despite whether or not she had sex voluntarily, the woman is punished and the man is not. Men often report that a woman committed Zina as a form of revenge of the woman’s close male relative, despite if she really committed Zina.
One can only attest that an assault occurred if there are at least four male witnesses that were present during the act and agree that it happened (Goodwin, 2003:51-53). 75% of women in jail are charged with Zina (Goodwin, 2003:52). Such a high ppercentage demonstrates the commonality of charging someone with Zina. The value of a woman’s life is considered half that of a man’s in Pakistan (Goodwin, 2003:55). Women’s lives are so restrictive they are sometimes only allowed outside their home three times in their lifetime, when they are born, when they get married, and when they die.
In addition, the windows are frosted so no outsiders can see the woman in her house (Goodwin, 2003:56-57). The cause of the lack of women’s rights is due to education; Pakistani women lack knowledge about their rights (Goodwin, 2003:71). Socioeconomic class plays a factor in women’s rights in Pakistan. The elite rich live in a westernized lifestyle. For instance, the elite have a lifestyle full of materialism. Women often have boyfriends in private, participate in sexual aactivity prior to mmarriage, drink alcohol at parties, and watch movies that have been banned in Pakistan.
Unlike the lower socioeconomic classes, the elite women are not considered property to her husband and do not have to live a domesticated lifestyle because they frequently hire people to perform the chores wives are expected to do in a lower class. In this elite class, the parent’s of sons arrange their mmarriage with a well-educated woman. The parent’s of daughters look for a husband that is professional with an American green card (Goodwin, 2003:68-69). The film, A Matter of Honor, informs the viewer that in Pakistan, Honor Killings are when a woman is killed due to acts that are prohibited through the religious laws the country follows.
Family members commit Honor Killings for the sole purpose of preserving the honor of the family. Honor Killings are more common among rural and uneducated people because they do not know how to read the Qur’an to build perceptions from the accurate meanings of the verses. Honor Killings are technically illegal in Pakistan, but they are rarely enforced. Muslim women’s rights are different among different countries and there are many opposing perspectives on Muslim women’s rights. In addition, the reasons why women’s rights continue to be restrictive differ as well.
One commonality among Afghanistan and Iran is the wearing of the veil. There are several different perspectives as to why the veil is worn. There are other laws regarding what women can and can not do in which Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan enforce. Not only are there different laws that are enforced, but they way they are enforced differ amongst different factors as well. Despite the trends in the way women are treated in these countries, it is important that people do not generalize these practices among all Muslim women, as this habit leads to false assumptions.
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