IM Swedish Development Partner, Middle East
Women in the Arab world have throughout history experienced grave legal, political and societal discrimination and harassment. Women and girls are subject to serious restrictions of their freedoms and rights. Solely based on their sex, women and girls are treated as “second-class” citizens. Women's right and liberties are reflected in laws dealing with criminal justice, economy, family law, education and healthcare. Hence, gender inequality and discriminatory practices and laws are structural problems which need to be addressed.
To a large extent, Women´s rights regarding sexual and reproductive health are not respected. Many countries in the region have very restrictive abortion laws. In Jordan, according to customary law, if a woman is raped, the rapist is pardoned if she marries him. Mothers’ citizenship is not inherited by their children. The vast majority of women in the region do not participate in the remunerated work force or in political or organizational work. Only 18% of women in Palestine are a part of the workforce, a fourth in comparison of the male population.
Middle Eastern women are severely disadvantaged in the areas of family law and inheritance, where women are accorded fewer rights than men and are subordinated to male authority.
People with disabilities are also discriminated, and socially excluded in the region. This is despite the prevalence of fairly good legal frameworks for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities, at least in Palestine and in Jordan. The Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, has been ratified, and there are special laws concerning the rights of persons with disabilities and national strategies for their implementation.
However, there are significant gaps between the standards set by the legal framework and the reality on the ground. A crucial shortcoming is the lack of enforcement mechanisms to ensure that policies are respected and implemented and adequate financial and human resource are made available. The state institutions often lack crucial information on how to develop inclusive policies and programs that can have a meaningful impact.
Women and girls with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities, are the most discriminated and socially excluded in the region. IM has also found that sexual and reproductive health and rights are not being promoted within this group, making them vulnerable for sexual abuse or violence. Further, lack of sexual and reproductive awareness and information, lack of knowledge regarding vaccinations, and the tradition of in-family marriages, are one of the causes to intellectual disability.
The links between gender, disability and economic empowerment is identified as an important field for IM to promote and develop and is something which is be emphasized in our work for change.The support aims at building capacity within the partner itself, strengthening them to carry out their own work without external support in the long term. IM’s role to strengthen civil society organizations holistically is of highest priority. This to ensure long-term sustainable development cooperation. IM sees its partnership with local organizations fighting for human rights and a more democratic society as essential in the work for change in the Middle East.