Women’s Rights: Iran Vs The Arab World

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It’s no secret that Iran has an detestable record concerning women’s rights. They are near the bottom in all measurable statistics indicating that women are equal to men within society. Women are subservient to men for the most part, and they must have a male guardian’s approval to marry or travel internationally. In addition, huge disparities exist in income equality. Only 17% of women are in the workforce and on average, they make over $20,000 less annually than their male counterparts.

Even though Iran is not a great place to be a woman, there are other countries in the region that have a worse record on gender equality. The West often criticizes Iran for their trespasses against women while overlooking their Arab allies in the region who treat women in a similar fashion, if not worse. Let’s look at a few other nations and compare their records on women’s rights to that of Iran.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Women In Riyadh Image Source: Clickrally

This perpetual ally of the West is no haven for female ambition.

Women are famously not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, but they can in Iran.

 Saudi women have historically not been allowed to vote in any elections, but King Abdullah has claimed that they will have the right to vote in the 2015 municipal contests. Iranian women’s suffrage began in 1963

-There are no female elected officials in Saudi Arabia. In 2010, it was reported that women held 5% of Iranian parliamentary seats and 3% of all ministerial posts.

-The World Economic Forum ranks nations according to the overall disparity between men and women. Saudi Arabia ranked last for political rights. Iran was not much better, but was still ranked two sports ahead of them.


Many hoped that the Arab Spring would result in a better nation for women, but the opposite has happened.

– In 2013, a poll of gender experts ranked all of the Arab countries concerning women’s rights, and Egypt ranked dead last.

– There has been a reported increase in sexual harassment, violence against women, and even genital mutilation since the Arab Spring.

A U.N. Report in April 2013 reported that 99.3% of women and girls are subject to sexual harassment.

-According to UNICEF, 91% of women are subject to female genital mutilation. Only one nation, Djibouti, has a higher percentage.

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Syria has never been a haven for women’s rights, but it has gotten much worse since the civil war began.

– According to human rights groups, women are very likely to be victims of trafficking, forced marriage, child marriage, and sexual violence.

– Women are routinely used as weapons of war and bargaining chips. Both the regime and the resistance groups use abductions and rapes as a means of intimidation.

Only 14% of the female population is in the labor force.


Women rights activists in Yemen

Image Source: Peacewomen

The World Economic Forum recently ranked Yemen as the worst country in the world for women’s rights. Although women and men fought alongside one another in the 2011 revolution, women have not been able to enjoy the fruits of the uprising.

– Only half of Yemeni women can read. In Iran, 79% of women are literate.

– There is no minimum marriage age, and child marriage is commonplace.

– In 2006, Human Rights Watch reported that 52% of Yemeni girls were married before age 18, and 14% were married before they were 15.

It is important to understand that this is not an endorsement of Iran’s treatment of women. They need to make significant changes and treat women fairly. Nevertheless, it should be known that there are other countries that treat women worse than the Iranians. Some of these nations have close ties to the West, but the West prefers criticizing the Iranians much more than their allies in the region. Another salient point is that not every Middle Eastern country has an abominable record on women’s rights. Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan all received relatively high marks in the studies mentioned above.

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