12 November, 2013

How Does Hadhramout Rank In Its Treatment Of Women?

I have just read an interesting article that claims to give a comprehensive snapshot of the state of women's rights in the Arab world's 22 countries. According to the report, Egypt ranks worst and the Comoros is ranked best. Iraq is ranked second-worst after Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. Comoros, is followed by Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.

The poll was done with a Western, biased perspective in mind; and it assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy. After reading the report, I asked myself how does Hadhramout fare in its treatment of women?

The problem with such polls, is that it lumps all regions of a country as one. For a country as large as Yemen, with many regions - how women are treated and fare in the different regions is not similar. For instance: women in Mahra are treated and fare so well, that they run and decide almost every thing. The poll and the report didn't consider this. Nor did they consider the high regards and consideration given to women in Hadhramaut. In Hadhramout, though men are the head and spokesmen for families; and are the main bread earners - it is the girls and women who play the most central role and are actually the moving forces behind most families. It is the women who are the main and central foundation of families.

Violence or rape against a woman in Hadhramout, is almost non existent. Whatever men do, it is always the girls and women of the family - who are uppermost in their considerations and minds. The well being and dignity of the women is always considered first and foremost, before most big decisions would be made or undertaken. In all my years here, I have never seen or noticed a man shouting at a woman or in any way hurting a woman in public; all differences or arguments with women, are done as privately and as quietly as possible. Most Hadhrami women are literate; and are actually much smarter and do better in school than boys.

How does one judge how a woman fares in a place? For me, the macho, dominating way of men in many foreign countries where women are many times regarded for what they are physically; and male chauvinists would never think twice before hitting a woman or sexually abusing them in the most degrading way - is a place where I would be most uncomfortable being a woman. In some places, misogyny is so extreme that infanticide is normal and the killing of a baby girl is nothing to feel guilty of. In some places, women are trafficked, advertised and traded in the most humiliating and degrading of ways, or used in very debasing, dehumanising pornographic ways; in some parts, every few minutes, women are raped in such beastly ways that just the thought of such an act is very terrifying. Such do not happen in Hadhramout. As for the Comoros, very few people know that most of them are actually descendants of the Hadharem; it is that descent, that makes them Arabs. In the Comoros, as in all places with Hadhrami influence, local culture is mixed with the strong Hadhrami/Islamic high regards and consideration for women.

+ The Thomson Reuters Foundation Report
+ The Women and Families of Hadhramaut