Violence Against Women & Looking Beyond the MDGs

Violence Against Women & Looking Beyond the MDGs

  Sara Al Lamki looks at the current status of violence against women within the global health agenda, and argues the need for a specific goal targetting violence in the post-2015 framework if gender parity is to be achieved. Violence Against Women – Are we doing enough? With the conclusion of the 58th session of the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) now over, one cannot help but wonder why violence against women (VAW) was not specifically addressed, and not on the very top of the agenda. The focus for this year was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls”, and while the UN Secretary General conceded that the MDG targets are “narrow and misaligned from the full spectrum of women’s and girls’ rights set out in key global agreements” the conference still neglected to place a major focus on one of the key contributors to this misalignment – VAW. This omission has not gone unnoticed, to a flurry of comments from blogs, focus pieces and followers of the conference.2,8,9 Varying organisations have called for a more specific and targeted Goal for Gender Equality that specifies targets on VAW to ensure it is not engulfed by the mammoth task that is ensuring rights for women and girls. Outside of the conference, there are a plethora of campaigns, programmes, calls for action, literature, and research on VAW– an endless spectrum of resources trying to find the best fix, with no such luck. Numbers have remained stagnant in the past few decades and the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that a staggering 35%...
Youth Sexuality and Sex Education in the Arab World

Youth Sexuality and Sex Education in the Arab World

“Have you ever tried to have sex in Arabic?” Did that get your attention? It certainly grabbed mine, the opening line of a contribution from Tala Abu Rameh on [wherever]: an out of place journal’s blog. Now before you get the wrong impression, read a little further: “Let me rephrase that, have you ever thought about sex in Arabic in a non-derogatory manner? For the non-Arabic speakers amongst you, sex in Arabic is not something commonly talked about, discussed or even fathomed, unless you are a female walking down the streets of Cairo listening to the different variations of what random passerby want to do to you. So, sex in Arabic, not so hot.”1 Let’s talk about sex Tala’s assertion of the silence surrounding sex – “not commonly talked about, discussed or even fathomed” is one that is echoed in “Libido” – a recent video from a group of young Egyptians.2 In it they explore the personal and societal consequences of the taboo surrounding youth sexuality in Egypt, but their themes could equally apply to other Arab countries. The video follows Mazen, a young man coming of age. When he asks his parents about sex, they respond with admonishments of “shame (‘ayb) and forbidden (haram), and the information he receives from school is no more enlightening. This fictional example will be familiar to many, and is reflective of the cultural and religious sensitivities that play a central role in shaping young people’s sexual behaviour and understanding of their rights to sexual and reproductive health (SRH). In Arab society the only legitimate avenue for sexual and reproductive life is within the confines of marriage. There...

Education key to preventing FGM and child marriage in the Arab region

October 11th, 2013 marks the second commemoration of International Day of the Girl Child. The theme for this year is “Innovating for Girls’ Education”, premised on the notion that educating girls is a “powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired developed outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.” (United Nations) I add to this list education’s role in preventing two controversial practices affecting young women and girls in certain areas of the Middle East and North Africa – female genital mutilation and child marriage. The extent to which FGM exists in the Arab world has not been well quantified outside of Egypt, and much of what is known is based on circumstantial evidence from news reports and bloggers emerging from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen. The health effects of FGM are myriad, ranging from immediate complications such as pain, haemorrhage, infection, and septicaemia to an extensive list of long terms consequences that include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, menstrual and urinary disorders, painful sexual intercourse, fistulae, obstructed labour, and infertility. A study published this month exploring pathways related to the decline of female circumcision in Egypt provides robust evidence that mothers’ education is significantly associated with their daughters’ circumcision status, and it remains so across various scenarios in which other observed and unobserved determinants are accounted for. Furthermore, the researchers’ considered and thoughtful analyses suggest a causal relationship between FGC risk and maternal education; they note “the generation of women...