Women around the world need to find their voice

Women with a VoiceKalsoom Bashir, Islamic Chaplain at Bristol University and co-director of Inspire, in Bristol, writes about the evolution of women’s rights, as David Cameron hosts a Girls’ Summit in London.

Women’s rights have come a long way in this country since the 19th century.

More than eight decades have passed since women gained the vote and it is now more than 30 years since the heyday of militant feminism.

We make up half the population and the workforce in this country but are still underrepresented and underpaid at top levels of employment.

One in four women in the world will be subject to domestic abuse.

Two women will be killed every week in the UK alone by a current or former partner

Women own 1 per cent of property in the world, they do two thirds of the work and yet are paid less than 10 per cent.

Thankfully society is not complacent.

There is at least a public commitment across all agencies to address issues of inequality for women.

Believe it or not Islamic sharia law gave these rights to women in the 7th century.

Back then I was given the right to work, own property, run my own business and participate fully in civil political and financial society.

In fact I take great glee in telling my husband what’s his is mine and what’s mine is my own.

Don’t worry. I am not going to wax lyrical about sharia and denounce western society.

Rather I would ask where have the rights and guiding principles established by God and the last prophet in the 7th century gone?

My Quran articulates a paradigm of love, spirited mutuality, justice. It’s not men against women, it’s working together to improve the human condition. This is Islam. This is what we have to work towards, men and women working together for the betterment of all.

Right here in this country never mind in any other country the Muslim community is well represented in forced marriages.

Recently the Government has had to legislate to make forced marriage a criminal offence despite the fact that under Islamic law a forced marriage is null and void.

Data from the 2011 Census indicate that long term unemployment continues to plague Muslim women, where they are six times more likely than the average population to have never worked.

It is no surprise therefore that Muslim women continue to remain one of the most under-represented politically.

As well as facing extensive gender based discrimination including the lack of a voice within mosques and within their own communities, Muslim women also report some of the worst health and education is still being denied to women despite the obligation upon her to seek knowledge.

Now add the fact that Muslim women are increasingly the targets of Islamophobic attacks. Not a pretty picture.

If the rights granted to women in the 7th century are not a living reality and we don’t continue to stand up for those members of society whose rights are abused we may as well be living in pre Islamic ignorance or 19th century England.




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