Thursday, February 2, 2012

Women's Rights in Oman

There are a lot of stereotypes in the western world regarding the treatment of women in the Middle East. Prior to my departure from the USA, I was asked by a lot of people about how my treatment would be because I am female. People were worried that, like the stereotypes dictate, I would be locked in the house or forced to dress a certain way. And, to be honest, while I didn't expect a severe case of oppression towards me, I did expect that there would be more restrictions upon me than there would on males. 

However, upon arrival, I immediately realized that this was wrong. My host sisters have just as much freedom to go out with friends as I did in the United States. The eldest two can and do drive. In terms of clothing and modesty, I do see a difference, but certainly not a negative one. My host sisters and mother do wear headscarves completely, but that is their choice, not one that they were bullied into. They do it because of their religion, not because of any form of oppression. And it is very common to see women who don't wear the scarf at all. These women do occasionally face some spitefulness from society, but there is no political pressure, no Taliban imprisoning women for not covering up. One of the things that I love about Oman is just that-- go to any mall, and you see girls in skinny jeans and tee shirts next to women in full niqab. There's acceptance of both clothing choices. 

Also, women are able to vote and participate in politics. In October, elections took place for the Majlis A'Shura (Oman's legislative body). 82 women ran for office this year, although I do not know how many won that position. It is true that there is a stark difference in numbers between men and women who are politically involved but the same is true in the United States. For a country in this region of the world (in fact, right next to Saudi Arabia, where women cannot even drive) that 40 years ago was entirely undeveloped, I consider this a great accomplishment. 

Anyways, I just wrote this little post to quell any fears that anyone might have regarding my place here as a female. I have the same rights as a female as I would were I male here. And I don't feel like I miss out on important parts of the culture because I'm female (unless you count riding taxis/ baisa buses as important parts of the culture, but I wouldn't recommend that anyone ride a baisa bus from what I've heard). Oman is very open to women and modernization as far as I have seen, and I'm grateful that this is so. 

3 comments:

  1. Emma,
    Congratulations on your year abroad, and thank you for being a voice that builds bridges between people-- you are doing really important work.
    Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D.
    President, Women in Islam, Inc.
    www.muslimwomenhumanrights.wordpress.com
    Program Director, Interfaith Center of New York
    www.interfaithcenter.org

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  2. oman is a very nice country and i praise there ruler sultan qaboos for these improvements. but the nationality law should be amended to allow for equal citixenship rights if this cant be accomplished women should be able to pass it to all children born in oman and if abroad if the father is stateless or unknown.

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