by P Offenhauer · 2005 · Cited by 138 — the number of interested scholars who address issues of gender and Islam.1 28.pdf>. • Zehra Kamalkhani, Women’s Islam: Religious Practice among Women
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WOMEN IN ISLAMIC SOCIETIES: A SELECTED REVIEW OF SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress under an Interagency Agreement with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence/National Intelligence Council (ODNI/ADDNIA/NIC) and Central Intelligence Agency/Directorate of Science & Technology November 2005 Author: Priscilla Offenhauer Project Manager: Alice Buchalter Federal Research Division Library of Congress Washington, D.C. 20540 4840 Tel: 202 707 3900 Fax: 202 707 3920 E-Mail: email@example.com Homepage: http:// www.loc.gov/rr/frd 57 Years of Service to the Federal Government 1948 Œ 2005
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s iPREFACE Half a billion Muslim women inhabit some 45 Muslim-majority countries, and another 30 or more countries have significant Muslim minor ities, including, increasingly, countries in the developed West. This study provides a literature review of r ecent empirical social science scholarship that addresses the actualities of wo men™s lives in Muslim societies across multiple geographic regions. The study seeks simultaneously to orient the reader in the available social scientific literature on the major dimensions of women™s lives and to present analyses of empirical findings that emerge from these bodies of literature. Because the scholarly literature on Muslim women has grown voluminous in the past two decades, this study is necessarily selective in its coverage. It highlights major works and representati ve studies in each of several subject areas and alerts the reader to additional significant research in lengthy footnotes. In order to handle a literature that has gr own voluminous in the past two decades, the study includes an ﬁIntroductionﬂ and a section on ﬁThe Scholarship on Women in Islamic Societiesﬂ that offe r general observationsbird™s eye viewsof the literature as a whole. The Introduction describes the two main sources of the social scientific studies on women in Muslim communities, namely, 1) academic programs on women worldwide that emerged under the impetus of post-1970s women™s movements a nd 2) international and national economic development agencies that came to see wome n™s disadvantaged status as a hindrance to development. It also describes the broad thrust of the social scientific literature on various spheres or dimensions of Muslim women™s liv es: ideology, law, family, economy, and politics. ﬁThe Scholarship on Women in Islamic Societie sﬂ section describes features that pervade the entire literature. One feature is that th e studies tend to align themselves on a spectrum between two interpretive poles, one relatively negative, the other positive, about the situation of women in Islamic societies. The second feature is that the literature is highly uneven in its coverage, with a disproportionate representation, in particular, of the Middle East and North Africa region. It also discusses the sources of the primary data upon which researchers draw in studies across a variety of fields and describes two types of work that make up the literature on women in Muslim societies, specialized mi crostudies and projects of consolidation. The final section ﬁDimensions of Women™s Stat us and Bodies of Researchﬂ characterizes the bodies of literature that have developed to illu minate particular dimensions of women™s lives. This portion covers, in separate sections, the substantial bodies of social scientific work that have developed on each of the following major dimens ions of women™s experience and condition: religious ideology, law, demography , family, economics, and politics.
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s iiiTABLE OF CONTENTS PREFACE.i I. KEY FINDINGS1 II. INTRODUCTION 5 Two Roads to the Social Scientific Study of Women in Muslim Cultures 5 Monolithic Stereotype Succumbs to Multi-F aceted Empirical Studies on Muslim Women .9 III. THE SCHOLARSHIP ON WOMEN IN ISLAMIC SOCIETIES.13 General Features of the Scholarly Literature..13 Two Interpretive Poles in the Literature 13 Uneven Representation of Different Regions, Nations, and Classes ..15 Assessing Women™s Status: Categories of Data, Categories of Scholarly Work .18 The Production of Data and Research Tools..18 Specialized and Microstudies.24 Consolidation of Knowledge about Women in Islamic Societies..26 IV. DIMENSIONS OF WOMEN™S STATUS AND BODIES OF RESEARCH ..27 Sex-Role Ideologies and Feminist Discour ses: Examining Sacred Texts and Contexts ..27 Legal Contexts: Women™s Legal Position and Rights ..32 Dual Legal Systems and Family Law Reform: Challenging the Substance of Laws..33 Muslim Family Law in Contem porary and Historical Practice41 Demographics, Health, and Education: Ongoing ﬁSociological Modernizationﬂ46 The Demographic Picture.47 Beyond Demography™s Limits.55 Marriage, Family, Household, and Everyday Life ..56 The Neopatriarchal Family and the Role of the State 58 Attitudes and Actualities: The Neopatriarchal Family .60 The New Work on Taboo Subjects: Violence and Female Circumcision.64 Women and the Productive Economy: Necessity or Empowerment? 71 When Women Go to Market: Women in Paid Labor in Muslim Societies 73 Structural Features That Explain the L abor Force Experience of Muslim Women77 Studies on Women™s Participation in the Informal Economy.80 Microlevel Empirical Field Studies .83 Women in Muslim States and Politics 87 Formal Politics: Office-Holding and Electoral Politics 87 Women™s Activism for Building the Nati on, Development, and Human/Women™s Rights91 V. CONCLUSION ..93 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY.95
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 1I. KEY FINDINGS General Observations More than half a billion of the women in the world are Muslim. They are concentrated in approximately 45 Muslim-majority countries in a broad belt from Senegal to the Philippines, with the largest number on th e South Asian subcontinent. The most populous single Muslim-majority nation is Indonesia. Monolithic stereotypes of Muslim women have long prevailed in the West, distorting the enormous interregional, intrar egional, and class variations in their circumstances and status. Serious social scientific scholarship on women worldwid e was scarce until the 1970s. Since then the study of women, including Mu slim women, has exploded. The social science literature on Muslim wome n is now voluminous and growing. The Western understanding of Muslim wome n remains unduly influenced by evidence from a single region. The social science sc holarship most familiar to the West about Muslim women focuses disproportionately on the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). Often seen as the land of Muslims par excellence, MENA is home to fewer than 20 percent of the world™s Muslims. Women in Muslim societies and communities face gender-based inequalities associated with the so-called ﬁpatriarchal gender system.ﬂ Aspects of this originally pre-capitalist system persist in rural areas across a wide swath of lands, both Muslim and non-Muslim, from East Asia to North Africa. The syst em, regardless of religion, features kin-based extended families, male domination, early marriage (and consequent high fertility), restrictive codes of female be havior, the linkage of family honor with female virtue, and occasionally, polygamous family structure. In Muslim areas, veiling and sex-segregation form part of the gender system. Most current scholarship rejects the idea that the Islamic religion is the primary determinant of the status and conditions of Muslim women. Because of the wide variation in Muslim women™s status and conditions, researchers typically attribute more causal salience to determining factors that th emselves vary across nations and regions. To account for the variable situations of Muslim women, schol ars cite as causal factors, for example, variations in the economic structur es and strategies of nations, or variations in the preexisting cultural value patterns of a given locale. The sacred writings of Islam, like those of the other Abrahamic faiths Christianity and Judaismhave been interpreted in ways that su pport patriarchal social relations. Until the last two decades, Western observers of the plight of Muslim women have portrayed Islam as uniquely patriarchal and incompatib le with women™s equality. Most scholars now see Islam as no more inherently mis ogynist than the other major monotheistic traditions.
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 2Many cultural practices associated with Isla m and criticized as oppressive to women are misidentified as ﬁIslamic.ﬂ Controversia l or egregious practices such as female circumcision, polygamy, early marriage, and hon or killings are not limited to Muslim populations, and among Muslims such practices are geographically specific or otherwise far from universal. The Legal Context: Women™s Legal Position and Rights The legal systems under which women live in Mu slim countries are mostly dual systems. They consist, on the one hand, of civil law, which is indebted to Western legal systems, and on the other hand, of family or personal status law, which is mainly built upon Sharia, Islamic religious-based law. The civil law as well as the constitutions of many Muslim states provide for equal rights between women and men. However, Islamic family law as variously manifested in Mu slim nations poses obstacles to women™s equality. Islamic family law, which addresses marriag e, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, has long been a target for reform. Many state el ites have pressed for family law reform to further state interests by removing hindrances to women™s full participation in the labor force and politics. Reforms of family law often have been limite d by the state™s perceived need to appease conservative social elements and, since the 1970s , growing Islamist movements. Islamist movements, sometimes through outright state takeover, as in Iran, occasionally have succeeded in rolling back ﬁwomen-friendlyﬂ reforms previously achieved. Family law reforms continue, often thanks to the pressure of proliferating groups of Muslim activists for women rights. In 2004, a major success was the overhaul of conservative family law in Morocco, which now boasts a relatively progressive system. In many Muslim states, the substance of fam ily law and its actual implementation differ in ways that somewhat mitigate the gender imbalance of the laws on the books. Women are able and sometimes officially encouraged to exploit rules and loopholes to circumvent discriminatory provisions in the law. Wo men can, for example, write clauses into marriage contracts that make taking anot her wife grounds for divorce and for post- divorce division of marital assets . A growing form of feminist activism at present aims to educate women about such strate gies and available loopholes. Demographics, Health, and Education: Ongoing ﬁSociological Modernizationﬂ Whatever hindrances to equality Muslim legal systems pose for women, Muslim women across all regions have made rapid progress in recent decades in a number of statistically measurable aspects of life, notably education and health. In these areas, Muslim nations have significantly reduced both gender gaps and the formerly wide differences in average attainment between Muslim and non-Muslim so cieties. In education, for example, a generation ago women in MENA had among the lowest levels of education in the world. MENA females now have achieved parity w ith males at some levels of schooling.
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 3Macro-level statistics also show a rapid reduction in Muslim and non-Muslim differences in reproduction-related behaviors. In the recent past, Muslim women exhibited comparatively high rates of fertility and low rates of contraception use. They now are participating in the worldwide trend of declining fertility. In some cases, such as in Iran, they have attained below-replacement fertilit y. Iran, in fact, effected the most rapid demographic transition ever seen. Viewed in terms of large-scale statistical indicators, Muslim women are becoming ever more like other women. This fact undercut s the assumption that ﬁIslamﬂ would inhibit Muslim women™s participation in such worldw ide trends as declining childbearing. On average, broad social and economic forces fo r change override whatever special influence Islam might have. Marriage, Family, Household, and Everyday Life In the sphere of the family, macro-level statisti cs indicate a shift to a nuclear family from a pattern of extended family and multi-generat ional households. Statistics also indicate that Muslims are delaying marri age and increasing their rate of non-marriage. Such shifts spell erosion of the traditional kinship-based patriarchal famil y, which persists as an ideal among conservatives. Caught between the traditional pa triarchal family model and an egalitarian nuclear model, today™s Muslim families have been called ﬁneopatriarchal.ﬂ They continue to feature intra-familial gender-based inequality. Scholarship within the last decade has begun to address the darkest aspects of such familial gender-based inequality, including the hitherto taboo topics of domestic violence, honor killings, and female circumcision. Such charged issues have figured prominently on the agendas of women™s rights advocates in Muslim communities since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Women and the Productive Economy: Necessity or Empowerment? Establishing the levels of the labor force part icipation of Muslim wo men is a challenge to researchers because a high proportion of wo men™s paid work, as in all developing economies, occurs in the informal economy. In at least one heavily Muslim region, name ly, MENA, female labor force participation appears to be exceptionally low, although growing. In other Muslim-majority lands, for example, Southeast Asia, it is high. The levels of Muslim women™s participation in the paid labor force are best explained by a particular economy™s development strategy and consequent need for female labor, rather than by, for example, religious ideology or cultural beliefs in male breadwinner/female-homemaker roles. In th e oil-boom years prior to the mid-1980s, the oil-centered economies of MENA di d not require female labor in order to grow. Thus, oil-rich nations such as Saudi Arabia had few women in the labor fo rce. By contrast,
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 5 II. INTRODUCTION Two Roads to the Social Scientific Study of Women in Muslim Cultures Until the latter decades of the twentieth centu ry, the question of wome n™s status and roles in Muslim cultures and societies was profoundly neglected. Western-inspired studies of the Muslim world mentioned women in passing, but in stereotyped and sensationalistic ways, while the bulk of locally produced literature on women in Islam consisted of discussions of the ﬁrightﬂ place of women in society, including, at best, didactic manuals on how to live a pious but modern life. Serious empirically based social science research on women and sex-disaggregated data were in short supply. This paucity of rigorous social research began to be remedied in the late 1970s, and by the late 1980s scholarship about women in Muslim societies had truly taken off. The 1990s saw an explosion of writing about women, which is ongoing, as is the growth in the number of interested scholars who address issues of gender and Islam. 1The impetus for this burgeoning research a nd serious coverage of women in Muslim societies came from two quite separate directio ns. One impetus was the emergence of women™s movements worldwide beginning in the 1970s, move ments of activists who pushed for women™s rights and gender equity. Another impetus came from the economic development interests of national governments and international organizations. Such institutions began to focus on a range of women™s issues initially a narrow range, e.g., fertility limitation and maternal healthas women came to be seen as an element in development. Women™s movements, or activism outside acad eme, fueled studies within academic settings across an array of academic disciplines, in cluding the social sciences. Social scientists within the various disciplines each adopted the multiple goals of remedying women™s ﬁinvisibilityﬂ within the discipline™s focus ar ea and of exposing women™s unequal status and access to societal goods. Simultaneously, social sc ientists, in using gender as a major category of analysis, sought to transform a nd improve their disciplines. As of the 1970s, the discipline of history, for instance, challenged the marginalizati on of women in the historical record, initially 1 One gauge of the exponential growth in scholarly attention to women in Islamic societies is a two-volume bibliography compiled by Yvonne Haddad and others. The first volume, The Contemporary Islamic Revival , which covers works published between 1970 and 1988, needed on ly eight of its 230 pages to list writing dealing with ﬁWomen.ﬂ In the second volume, The Islamic Revival Since 1988 , whose 298 pages cover works published between 1988 and 1997, the same category had swelled to 40 pages. Full citations of the volumes are: Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, John Obert Voll, and John L. Esposito, The Contemporary Revival: A Cr itical Survey and Bibliography (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991); and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and John L. Esposito, The Islamic Revival Since 1988: A Critical Survey and Bibliography (Westport, CN: Greenwood Publishing, 1997).
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 6 recovering elite women ﬁwomen worthiesﬂ as part of traditional political history, and later producing innovative anthropologically influenced social history about ordinary women and various aspects of their lives and historical contributions. Sociology built up a substantial body of work about women™s roles and status in the family, in education, in the workplace, and in social formations and movements, and examin ed how gender inequalities are constructed and maintained in the various arenas of life. 2 Even economics, the most resistant of the social science disciplines to addressing th e gendered nature of its study areaeconomic processesdeveloped, by late 1980s, a sub-field of feminist economics. This sub-field took mainstream economics to task, for example, for studying workers as a generic, sex-undifferentiated category, and for failing to count the value of the world™s unpaid or non- marketed production, most of it contributed by women. 3 Feminist economics also questioned standard measures of economic well-being, such as GDP per capita, and proposed alternatives more capable of capturing non-market gains and losses that disproportionately affect women and other marginalized groups. 4Such women-focused work in the various soci al science disciplines initially emerged in the United States and Europe but spread within a decade to venues outside the West, including venues in parts of the Muslim world where women™s reform organizations and feminist networks became active. 5 In the wake of this spread of a res earch interest in wome n, university programs in women™s studies and academic research cente rs were established in the Muslim world. Leading research centers in the Arab world were formed in Cairo, Egypt, and Beirut, Lebanon. 6 2 For a discussion of the development of a feminist strand within sociology, see Myra Marx Ferree, Shamus Khan, and Shauna A. Morimoto, ﬁAssessing the Feminist Revolut ion: The Presence and Absence of Gender in Theory and Practice,ﬂ June 25, 2005. < http://www.ssc.wisc.e du/~mferree/ferree%20khan%20morimoto%20-%20final.doc> 3 Representative studies in this sub-field of economics appear in Feminist Economics , the journal of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE), an organization that seeks to advance feminist inquiry of economic issues and to educate economists and others on feminist points of view on such issues. Incorporated in 1992, IAFFE was accorded NGO in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 1997. IAFFE has 600 members, the majority economists, in 43 countries. 4 For an early discussion of the need for such alternative, gender-sensitve measures of economic well-being, see Marilyn Waring, Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth , 2 ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1999; orig. 1987). Offering a fe ndminist analysis of modern economics, Waring empasizes how woman™s housework and care for others is automatically excluded from value in ec onomic theory. See also Marianne A. Ferber and Julie A. Nelson, Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993); Julie Nelson, Feminism, Objectivity and Economics (London: Routledge, 1996); and Marianne A. Ferber and Julie A. Nelson, Feminist Economics Today: Beyond Economic Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). 5 For a discussion of the activities of women™s movements and feminist networks in the Muslim world, see the section ﬁWomen in Muslim States and Politics.ﬂ 6 A notable center in Lebanon is the Institute for Wo men™s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University, Beirut. Egypt has numerous research venues on women. On these and other centers, see Saad Eddin
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 7 In Jordan, in 2000, a women™s studies program was in itiated at the faculty of graduate studies of the University of Jordan. In 1995, Palestine esta blished the Institute of Women™s Studies at Bir Zeit University. Academic venues in the non-Arab Muslim world also became host to women™s studies and research centers. At the same time that studies began to pro liferate and programs to form in academic settings, governments and organizations with an interest in economic development themselves undertook more serious study of women. At first into the 1970ssuch study had limited aims, addressing the ﬁpopulation explosionﬂ and high fertility rates as impediments to modernization and capitalist development. Interested in prev enting population growth from offsetting the gains of economic development, governments sponsored national family planning and maternal/child health programs and sought knowledge relevant to women defined primarily as mothers. Gradually the aims of government policy makers broadened as they came to see women as an underutilized resource and, in some regions, particularly Southeast Asia, as a potential source of cheap labor for state-led industrialization and modernization proj ects. As evidence accumulated that the subordinate status of females impedes development both by hindering population limitation and by reducing women™s productive cont ributions, development organizations began targeting women as beneficiaries of programs; the organizations sought to facilitate women™s access to resources and participati on in the labor force. Targeting women primarily in the name of efficiency and for the sake of development, governments and state-sponsored development programs eventually also responded to pressure s emanating from women™s movements to widen further the goals vis-à-vis women, and to ma ke women™s rights and empowerment a higher priority. The same combination of motivation and pressures that affected national governments development imperatives and women™s organized equity demands led also to greater action and research on wo men on the international level, in international organizations involved in development assistance, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and among donor institutions such as the World Bank and various foundations. Am ong the results of the greater international interest in women were the first and sec ond United Nations Decades for Women (1976Œ1995), which encouraged, beginning with the 1975 Wo rld Conference on Women (WCW), significant Ibrahim, ﬁArab Social-Science Research in the 1990s and Beyond: Issues, Trends, and Prioritiesﬂ (Canada: International Development Research Centre).
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Library of Congress Œ Federal Research Division Women in Islamic Societie s 8 global networking on gender issues and fueled demands to incorporate gender awareness into development planning. In the context of the Ar ab and Muslim world, as elsewhere, the United Nations provided needed support for existing wo men-based and human rights networks, as well as the impetus for social science research. A se ries of international c onferences, including the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (IC PD) in Cairo, the 1995 World Summit on Social Development (WSSD) in Copenhagen, and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing all required partic ipating delegations to provide country and regional studies and energized Arab and non-Arab Muslim social sc ientists to focus on hitherto neglected topics concerning women. In addition, international legislation such as the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discri mination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), among othe rs, galvanized action and research.7 Sixteen out of the twenty-two Arab countries signed (CEDAW), as did most other Muslim-majority nations. 8The Beijing Platform called for women-cen tered programs and for ﬁmainstreamingﬂ women in all existing and future development pr ojects. The aspiration to ﬁmainstreamﬂ women obliged member and aid recipient governments to keep track of the status and progress of women. Within multilateral and bilateral ai d agencies, as of the mid-1970s women-in- development (WID) research and action emerged to address how to increase women™s access to development programs and projects and to assess the results. 9 This WID interest and scholarshiplater renamed ﬁGender and Developmentﬂ (GAD) to suggest a broader agendawas also pursued by non-governmental orga nizations (NGO). Often responsible for implementing programs, women-centered NGOs devel oped research arms. Policy researchers in the WID/GAD framework developed a body of wo rk, including much work in the non-Arab Muslim world, whose emphasis differed from th at of academic resear chers. Often more 7 For a special issue on CEDAW and Arab countries, see the quarterly journal of the Institute for Women™s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Al-Raida 15, nos. 80-81 (Winter/Spring 1998). 8 United Nations, U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Progress of Arab Women: One Paradigm, Four Arenas, and More than 140 Million Women , 2004, 15.
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