Women's Rights and Democracy in The Arab World
The popularity of the women’s rights cause and its obvious intrinsic merit have unfortunately generated many facile assumptions and much confusion about the conditions of women in the Middle East and the problems they face; about the relationship between women’s rights and democracy; and about what an outside intervenor like the United States can accomplish. This paper seeks to clarify some of these issues. It fully accepts the dominant assumptions that the rights of Arab women are not sufficiently protected in the Arab world; that social norms preclude women from fully enjoying even their limited legal rights; that this holds back the entire society; and that the United States should be concerned about the problem and contribute to its solution. It cautions, however, against the assumption that by promoting women’s rights the United States contributes to the democratization of the Arab world, and it calls for a clearer separation of programs promoting the rights of women and opportunities for them and those promoting democracy.