Muslim Women’s Rights
The social position of Muslim women differs throughout time periods and countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The consequences of breaking the laws in these nations differ as well. In addition, different social factors affect the way Muslim women are treated. These social positions are perceived differently amongst men and women in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, the leaders of the past Resistance turned Muslim Afghanistan into a strict theocratic state by incorporating religion into the state laws. This theocratic state, also known as the Islamic state of Afghanistan, along with the mujahideen, limited women’s rights in 1992 (Goodwin, 2003:78). Specifically, women are required to follow a strict dress code of wearing proper veils and are banned from watching television or listening to the radio. When a Muslim woman gets married, she becomes her in-law’s property. Women are also prohibited from working, wearing perfume, receiving an education, participating in political elections and showing any body part that can be considered erotically enticing. In addition, a Muslim woman cannot talk to men that are not related to her (Goodwin, 2003:78-79).
One reason women’s rights are restricted is the lack of education and illiteracy of Afghan women. Being illiterate prevents a woman from studying Islam. Therefore, when someone tells her something is Islamic, she automatically believes him because she has no way of knowing otherwise. Not only does illiteracy prevent Muslim women from studying Islam, but it also prevents them from studying their legal rights and the Qur’an. Studying the Qur’an and legal rights would cause women to understand what really is Islamic. Women may lack knowledge of how women live in other nations. Therefore, these women do not resist their lack of rights because they are uninformed of alternative lifestyles of women. In 1921, women’s rights drastically changed. The veil was banned and the first school for girls opened (Goodwin, 2003:88 and 90). In 1964, the constitution of Afghanistan granted equal status to men and women and coeducation (Goodwin, 2003:89). Communism did take over Afghanistan after that event and Aghanistan’s laws for women became much more conservative. Hamida, a college-educated Afghan woman had to stay home with other women and wear the traditional veil due to the drastic change in women’s rights. She greatly suffered and experienced many physical problems due to the drastic change in rights. Her level of education may have been a factor to her strong reaction (Goodwin, 2003:91). Hamida’s reaction demonstrates how educated women have a stronger negative reaction than uneducated women in terms of restrictions.
In Iran, women must wear their hijab properly and remain entirely covered in public as soon as they are mature enough to be married. Women are considered mature enough to marry by the age of 9 (Goodwin, 2003:107). According to Zahra Qasim, a store clerk in Iran, dress restrictions are not always formally written down, so rules are somewhat unclear, which leads to women being punished due to laws they are unaware of (Goodwin, 2003:108). Banning the veil could be perceived just as oppressive if not more, than requiring women to wear a veil. Due to banning the veil, some women feel uncomfortable going in public without a veil, causing women to avoid going out in public whenever possible (Hoodfar, 1993). Therefore, wearing the veil in Iran is part of culture and society in Iran. Another reason behind the dress restrictions is husbands feel in control when their wives wear a veil (Goodwin, 2003:109). Rahnavard has a different perspective on the veil. She believes “women in the west have been enslaved by fashion, makeup, and turned into objects of sexual attention. “The veil frees women from the shackles of fashion and enables them to become human beings in...
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