Middle East Tougher For Women Than Men Says AP Journalist Al Shalchi

egyptian-women.jpgThe first thing I am asked about my life in Egypt when I go back to a western country is what is it like as a woman living and working in Egypt.

When I first moved to Cairo, I still carried a very post-9/11, North American attitude – I felt it important to break stereotypes about the Middle East and was defensive about the misconceptions attached to Muslim women living in this part of the world.

I would quickly answer that life was very normal for me in Cairo as a woman; I didn’t feel as though it was tougher for me than for a man, and that I was surviving very well, thank you very much.

Four years on and having travelled throughout the Middle East, I am more honest about my experience – it is without doubt tougher for women to live here than for men.

From the daily sexual harassment on the street, to the fact that the presence of a man is needed to carry out certain errands, to guarantee a fair price or garner respect, in many way everything has remained patriarchal. The Arab world has progressed at a snail’s pace.

Just this month, a decision by the state council courts to forbid women from being judges saw newspapers rehashing the same arguments about the ability of a woman to hold such a position: What will happen if she leaves the home? Is she too emotional to work in such a profession? Does her menstrual cycle make her too crazy to pass judgement?

Not only are they arguments from the Stone Age, they were already debated seven years ago when the first female judge was appointed to the supreme court, and then again in 2007 when the first batch of women judges arrived in the constitutional court.

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By Hadeel al Shalchi
The National

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