On this day, we would like to underline that the situation of women’s human rights is alarming in the region of the Middle East despite few positive developments at a legislative and institutional level. In particular, discrimination in law and practice against women in the area of marriage and divorce, inheritance and child custody, inadequate action against sexual and other gender-based violence, nationality, “honour” crimes, freedom of movement, polygamy and child marriage. The domestic violence, including sexual violence and marital rape are not criminalised in most of the Middle Eastern countries. The violence against women and girls in zones of armed conflicts is widespread. So-called “honour” crimes carried out by a husband against his wife who had committed adultery, the mitigating circumstances and exculpatory often extended to other male members of her family but not to women. We are also concerned about the repression of women’s rights defenders.
In conflict torn Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, women and girls are disproportionally affected by gender-based violence at the hands of militias and armed groups and it is obvious that the state authorities either unwilling or incapable to address it. Despite undertaken reforms to the discriminatory male guardianship system, women in Saudi Arabia still need the permission of a male guardian to marry. The Kuwait government have not yet criminalized domestic violence, including sexual violence and marital rape. Qatar continues rejecting to fully recognize equal rights for women and to cease interpretation of the term “punishment” in line with the Islamic Shari’a.
In 1920, the German revolutionary Clara Zetkin proposed to honour working women on 8 March every year and in 1975, the United Nations began officially marking this day as Internatinoal Women’s Day. In 2020, the main theme for International Women’s Day “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. It is connected to the new campaign of the UN Women “Generation Equality” that marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which is considered as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls.