By Octavia Nasr
6 January 2015
My message is addressed to women and men equally because they are equal in their responsibilities and duties as well as in their roles in building or destroying any society.
I was hoping to report some good news about societies embracing women and advancing them to leadership roles or at least allowing them to express their individuality anyway they choose, but reality is far from that.
A quick scan of women’s statuses around the world reveals that societies already supportive of equality in opportunity, responsibility and freedom between men and women continue on this path and empower women towards a healthy balance.
However, countries that don’t encourage or support the right to equality have gotten farther behind in the past few years. They have even developed more rigid attitudes towards women. By doing so, they not only became more fundamentally patriarchal, but they have crossed the lines of judgment and criticism towards direct assault, physical and verbal abuse and even ending life to paralyze advancement.
The Arab world leads in this field where individuals appoint themselves to the illusionary tribunal of right and wrong, assaulting women as well as freedom seekers and human rights defenders in the process.
The assassination of a female lawyer in Libya shutting her activism for genders equality is one example. The suicide of young women in Morocco and elsewhere to avoid being forcefully married to their rapists is another. Here is a heinous crime some Arab societies devised atop the barbaric crime of rape. It actually awards rapists and helps them avoid a short jail sentence for their crime while totally disregarding the victim’s state of being in the process.
On the world stage, the Qatari Women’s Basketball team was pulled from the Asian Games because they were not allowed to compete while wearing the Hijab. That is an outrageous decision and an outrageous outcome that assaults the female athletes and their abilities. It tramples on their hard work and their desire to be competitive and share in the world’s sports etiquettes.
In Lebanon the past year has seen outrage at an achieved Olympian for her revealing photos for an unrelated project. And recently a popular porn star was attacked for being of Lebanese origin. This, in a country where women are becoming unrecognizable due to an addiction to plastic surgery, and Eastern European women are apparently imported in high numbers to “entertain” the men. Dare I remind you that Lebanese women cannot give the nationality to their children?
Whether a fake outrage or an all-out assassination, they highlight the sad state of women’s affairs and outline some people’s misplaced priorities and skewed ethics.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.