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Headscarves and Hymens

Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution

By Mona Eltahawy
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Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy

Headscarves and Hymens (2015) chronicles the many levels of abuse suffered by women in the Arab world and what brave feminist activists are doing about these injustices. These blinks describe the various forms of oppression women face, from child marriage to virginity tests, and call for a sexual revolution in Islamic nations.

Key idea 1 of 8

Arab women live amid hostile, misogynistic environments.

Most Westerners are aware that women in the Arab world don’t enjoy equal rights, but might not know of the astounding daily abuse under which many women suffer.

The author believes Islamic religion encourages discrimination, and its influence is directly related to the promotion of a misogynistic culture throughout Arab nations.

Misogyny – hatred of women – is rampant in the Arabic-speaking areas of the Middle East and North Africa. Many people in these regions subscribe to ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam, ideas which spawn societies obsessed with the control of women.

This is especially true among Salafi groups or those who follow the Sunni sect of Islam, as well as in political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or Shiite militias in Iraq. In general, the social control of women and inequality between the sexes are the norm throughout the Islamic world.

In many places, family matters are handled by religious courts that enforce Islamic laws. These laws are supposed to protect families but fail to prevent atrocities such as child marriage, marital rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

In Egypt, for example, a court can decide that an Egyptian man may beat his wife with “good intentions” and not face any consequences. In Yemen, 2013, an eight-year-old girl was forced to marry a man five times her senior. She died on her wedding night from the internal bleeding she sustained as a result of her husband raping her.

But despite such horrific cases, voices for child marriage are more prevalent than those opposed. Yemeni clerics essentially support pedophilia by referencing the example of the Prophet Mohammed, whose second wife was a child when they were wed.

Because of practices like child marriage, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, which measures levels of inequality, found that no Arab country qualified to appear in the list of top 100 countries working to close the gender gap.

Morocco, a nation that has been questionably praised as supporting “progressive” family policies, was listed at 129; Yemen appeared at the very bottom of the list.

While the situation of women in many Arabic-speaking nations is dire, many people aren’t aware of the specifics of what being an Arab woman is like in daily life. Let’s find out why.

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