By Perri Huggins
Oct 27, 2019
In a country where an air-conditioned, world-record-breaking metro offers women and children an exclusive pink car, gender plays out against a nuanced landscape.
The wealthy United Arab Emirates projects an image of women’s empowerment in the Middle East. The UAE boasts landmark progress in promoting women’s equality. The federation created a Gender Balance Council in 2015. In December 2018, leadership announced that women will take 50% of the seats in the Federal National Council beginning the next parliamentary term. The country ranked 48th in the UNDP’s 2018 Human Development Report.
The Gender Balance Council boasts unprecedented regional advancements in “gender balance.” The term refers specifically to equal representation and equal pay in government and industry. Gender equality is something different. With true gender equality, a national Gender Balance Council would give its annual achievement awards to women, contrary to last year’s results. Yes, all the recipients were men.
Daily Realities for Emirati Women
Princess Haya, a daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and the sixth wife of UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, fled the country in July. She is at least the third princess from the prime minister’s family to do so and the first to succeed in her attempt.
Princesses Shamsa and Latifa, who also attempted to flee, have reportedly been imprisoned and live “under torturous conditions” back in the palace. These women show that life for women in the UAE is a different reality than the glamorous picture promoted by the state.
State publicity may advocate for equal representation, but legislation undeniably discriminates.
Women in the UAE require a male guardian’s permission to marry, and a wife is legally required to obey her husband. While women may hold prominent positions in the workplace, they must first have their husband’s permission to work.
If an Emirati woman refuses sex with her husband, she may lose her right to financial support. Should she choose to apply for a divorce, she must seek a court order. Her husband, on the other hand, has the right to divorce unilaterally.
Domestic violence is legal; a husband can beat his wife as long as he leaves no visible marks.
The UAE’s Landmark Support for Women Abroad
While the UAE manoeuvres a unique path to champion its own women, the federation is training foreigners to protect women abroad. The UAE recently concluded the first round of its Military Peacekeeping and Training Programme in Abu Dhabi.
The 3.5 month course included basic military training and peacekeeping training. A total of 134 female cadets from the Arab world graduated on May 10. The next round of training should begin in January. Cadets and civilians alike, 400 women from Asia and Africa, particularly from conflict zones, will begin training.
The program aligns with UN Resolution 2242 to Improve Implementation of Landmark Text on Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. The resolution, introduced in 2015, aimed to double the number of female UN Peacekeepers by 2020. Currently, they make up only 4% of all deployed personnel.
Research shows that female peacekeepers improve the peace process in several ways. They contribute greatly to preventing sexual violence, promote female political participation, make peacekeeping forces more approachable, and improve reintegration for female ex-combatants.
A Bigger Picture
The UN lauded the program for good reason. At the same time, the UAE continues its unlawful involvement in Yemen, with devastating effects on the female population. Yemen has been named the worst place in the world to be a woman.
Since the coalition-led intervention began, the UN reported a 63% increase in assaults against women. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), early and forced marriages have tripled in the past four years. The NGO found that adolescent girls, unmarried women, divorced women, and female heads of households are the most vulnerable groups in Yemen today.
The federation pledged $10 million to support women in conflict zones at a conference in May. Zaki Nusseibeh, minister of state, gave opening remarks: “The empowerment and protection of women is one of the key pillars of the UAE’s foreign aid strategy, backed up by the country’s pledges to continue support for the countering of gender-based violence in armed conflict, and enhancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The peacekeeping program aligns with these goals. So can stopping bombs. So can outlawing domestic violence.
The UAE’s involvement in Yemen remains unclear. Seeing women in half of parliamentary seats might affect domestic and foreign policy. For now, the UAE acts in contradiction to its stated trajectory towards women’s empowerment.
Original Headline: In Search of Gender Equality in the United Arab Emirates
Source: The Morocco World News