Roles, Rights, and Treatment of Women in the MENA Region

What began with a calm and united discussion upon the roles and rights of women – a motion that the UAE is fully supportive of - soon took a wild turn after the delegate of Iraq made a controversial statement which showed her support for men having more active roles in leadership environment than women.

The delegate of Iraq proposed that men think more critically and are physically stronger than women. “With supporting statistical evidence, men are better at Mathematics and Science based subjects which is why they are more suited for running or starting up businesses or even becoming politicians to lead a country, while women are better at Social Sciences and hence, are meant for household work,” the delegate said. The delegate allegedly also stated that since women are physically weaker than men, they need to be protected by them.

The entire committee raised their voices, except for the delegate of Congo who agreed with Iraq, in contradiction to the controversial statements made by the delegate of Iraq.

The delegate of Iraq incited a furore by stating that women must wear a hijab to be protected from rape and sexual harassment. In retaliation the delegate of the UK said, “the government should be able to protect the women in their country no matter what they wear or where they are, whether they have a man beside them to protect them or not.” The delegate of Iraq clarified that such measures have to be taken since her country is surrounded by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS who, statistically, have more rape cases attributed to their group than the whole of Iraq. The delegate of Congo showed his support for Iraq and further said that terrorist groups are one of the reasons for harassment, abuse and mistreatment of women.

Many other delegates representing various countries, including the delegate of USA, voiced their objection. This led to the delegate of Iraq having to defend her country’s choices for the way that they treat their women as well as bringing up the abortion laws that had been passed earlier in the USA. The delegate of Iraq further added that the abortion laws were passed with the approval of a woman in their country and that that one woman took away the rights of other women by passing this law. This showed the hypocrisy of the USA as they had previously targeted Iraq by accusing that the country wasn’t letting women practice their basic rights.

Later in the session, a press conference was held where the delegate of Tunisia refused to comment on the changes in laws that her country is planning to enforce in order to ensure better and safer treatment of women.

The session’s debate highlighted the roles and rights of women and how political, cultural and traditional issues, and perspectives, including the presence of terrorist groups, can result in vastly altered approaches towards an issue.

Reporter: Vadaanya Singh, Gulf News

Editor: Akshita Mathur