This is occurring in several parts of the world but the focus will be placed specifically on the Islamic nation of Afghanistan where women’s rights are all but non-existent. As a result, women living in these nations experience many varying forms of inequality throughout their lifetimes. Cultural practices in conjunction with misinterpretations of the Qur’an, have lead to unfair treatment of women from childhood to marriage and through motherhood. The cultural inequalities between females and males in the Islamic culture begins from birth.
Stated in the Qur’an, disappointment and shame is brought to new parents upon learning that their baby is a girl. When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or Trgachef 2 bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on? (Qur’an 16:57-58) While this religious teaching typically encourages couples to prefer to bear male children, it does not encourage the abuse or murder of female infants.
Female infanticide is a common problem in Afghanistan, and although the Qur’an does not discuss it, cultural views have led to female babies being considered invaluable, or even a burden. The cultural oppression of girls who survive to childhood affects their education as many parents do not find it necessary to send their female children to school. Approximately, 40% of Afghan girls attend elementary school, one in twenty girls attend school beyond the sixth grade (Trust in Education, par. 1). To that end, there are approximately three times more boys attending school in comparison to girls in Afghanistan (Trust in Education, par. ). Many all-girls schools in Afghanistan have been demolished, teachers who educate female students have been threatened and murdered, and female students have been physically harmed for attending school (Trust in Education, par. 1). The Taliban regime, an Islamic fundamentalist political movement that governed Afghanistan from 1996 – 2001 based upon radical interpretations of Islamic teachings, banned women from studying at schools, universities or any educational institution, believing instead that women should remain submissive, uneducated, and in their homes (Abrams 14).
Given that a female is of little value, or even seen as a disgrace, to Islamic families in Afghanistan, many parents prefer to marry their daughters off without any consideration for her wishes. While the Qur’an does not encourage this, in practice, over 50% of Afghani girls are forced by their parents into marriage (Trust in Education, par. 1). Afghanistan’s rate of married girls aged 15 to 19 is 54% (The Situation of Girls & Young Women 6), and most of these Trgachef 3 girls marry men that are more than twice their age (Trust in Education, par. 1).
Moreover, these young brides usually they meet their spouses-to-be for the first time at their wedding ceremony (Trust in Education, par. 1). Forced marriages occur not only because of the desire to free parents of the ‘burden’ of their daughter, but also to abate the high risk of kidnapping and rape, which would render the family dishonoured. Alternately, for families in poverty, it is preferable to give their daughters away because of the cost to feed and look after them. Older and wealthy husbands will pay a large bride-price for a young girl, thereby providing a poor family with some short-term income.
Regardless of the situations surrounding a young woman’s marriage, most times she does not have a say in when or to whom she will be married. Just as a female does not have a say in her own marriage arrangements, women lost the right to decide whether or not to wear the traditional Ismalic burqa when the Taliban gained power in 1996. During the period of time reigned by this political regime, women were treated horribly: they were beaten and stoned to death for not dressing according to Islamic political laws.
For example, a young woman might be stoned for not having worn the mesh covering in front of her eyes that is a typical part of the burqa veil (The Oppression of Women in Afghanistan par. 1). As has been demonstrated, young girls of the Islamic culture face a challenging life right from the beginning as they are judged from birth to be inadequate: They severely lack education, are forced into unfair marriages, and have wardrobe restrictions placed on them in their daily lives. Inequalities are present throughout the role of being an Islamic wife in Afghanistan.
A Muslim wife must be submissive towards the needs of her husband and serve the husband and his family as a whole. Essentially, the wife is expected to recognize her husband’s authority over hers. A wife should stay home, as they are not allowed to work, or even go out in public without Trgachef 4 a male relative. Afghan women are frequent victims of abuse. Incidents of violence against women remain largely under-reported because of cultural restraints, social norms and religious beliefs. (Oppression of Women in Afghanistan par. 1).
Approximately 92% of women in Afghanistan get abused for refusing to do the following: going out without telling the spouse, neglecting the children, arguing with the husband, refusing sex, and burning the meal (Trust in Education, par. 1). The role of women as Muslim mothers has various contradicting elements. According to the Qur’an, a mother’s role is valued and dignified, as demonstrated by various verses in the sacred text: “And revere the wombs that bore you for God is ever watchful over you” (Qur’an 4:1). And even more notably, “Your heaven lies under the feet of your Mother” (Ahmad 1).
In consideration of the many years of unequal treatment of women prior to motherhood, women finally gain a respected role in their religion. The emphasis on the mother in the Qur’an is viewed as being just as important as the father, as the mother is the one who carries, nurtures and grows the child in her womb. However, in cultural practice, mothers do not receive the respect or praise as outlined by the Qur’an; instead, versus from the text are misinterpreted to allow abuse to continue silently at home and in public. An Islamic mother was hit by a car driven by a Taliban officer.
The government response to this was: We keep telling you that women don’t have the right to go outside their houses if she was a man we would investigate the case. It is a good lesson to the other women not to go outside of their houses. Women in their houses or in the grave. (The role of Women in Two Islamic Fundamentalist Countries 197) Trgachef 5 The abuse of mothers in Muslim communities is clear evidence for the fact that motherhood does not bestow complete protection upon these Islamic women although the Qur’an states otherwise.
Furthermore, the issue was recognized by Hollywood in 1991, when the film Not Without My Daughter was produced, a movie following one Muslim woman as she tries to escape with her daughter back to America from her Muslim husband. Female gender roles of the Islamic culture are seen as unequal in comparison to males. Although the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an does not encourage oppression and unequal treatment of women, in practice, the sacred text has been misinterpreted in several situations. As birth of a female child often brings shame and disgrace upon a family.
The right for females to attend educational institutions is greatly oppressed, as females are given specific gender roles based on cultural norms. Normalities for females include staying at home to take care of their families, rather than attending school. Females are forced off into arranged marriages, usually at a young age, and often times they do not have a say in whom they will marry. As an Islamic wife, women are expected to please their husbands and do as they say, or they might experience consequences.
Mothers however, stated in the Qur’an, are to be treated respectfully, and valued greatly. Although, some mothers are not treated accordingly due to cultural practices. Though the Qur’an signifies specific expectations for males and females, it does not say to completely disrespect and abuse females. Sociocultural normalities have often led the Islamic culture to misinterpret the roles and rights of women as stated in the Qur’an. This misinterpretation of the Qur’an has led to diminishing rights of females, including abuse, lack of freedom and overall maltreatment.
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