Women unconcerned with Sharia
BY DALIA RABIE
Cairo: At a time when a newly elected Islamist president is seen as a direct threat to women’s rights, a recent poll showed that Egyptian women are as likely as men to favor Sharia as a source of legislation, stating that their top concerns are rather economic and social development as well as security.
Forty-four percent of women said they want Sharia as a source of new legislation, compared to 50 percent of men. While 38 percent of women said they prefer it to be a source of legislation, but not the main one, compared to 37 percent of men, a Gallup report revealed.
“[Women and men] equally cite economic and security issues as being the most important problems facing their families,” the report said, “Gender-specific concerns were not mentioned as top priorities for Egyptian women.”
Both men and women ranked “inflation or lack of money” as the most important problem facing their family, followed by lack of jobs, lack of affordable food and lack of security.
Indeed security was among women’s top concerns, with only 57 percent of women saying they feel safe walking alone at night after the uprising, compared to 76 percent in 2010.
The report also stated that Egyptian women and men expressed similar levels of support for Islamist parties. There was no gender difference on whether “a parliament with a strong Muslim Brotherhood presence is a good thing for Egypt,” according to the report.
Forty-nine percent of both men and women say they support the Muslim Brotherhood, while 31 percent and 30 percent of men and women respectively say they support the Salafi Al-Nour Party.
According to the study, there is no difference between those who favor Islamist parties and those who back liberal parties with regards to their support for women’s rights.
The study further found no link between men’s support for Sharia as the only source of legislation and women’s rights. “This suggests that, in principle, economic trouble is a greater threat to women’s rights than public support for religious legislation,” it read.
The report titled “After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion, and Rebuilding,” focuses on gender differences in countries affected by the Arab uprisings, including Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya.
The report suggests that a religious outlook and support for women’s rights are compatible in the Arab world in general, with few differences between those who rate religion as “important” and those that rate it as “not important” in regard to their attitudes toward women’s rights.
The results show that seven in 10 adults (69 percent) who find religion important support women’s right to initiate a divorce, compared with fewer than five in 10 adults (46 percent) who say religion is not important.
In Egypt, the majority of men agree with women that they should be on the same legal footing, with 79 percent of men agreeing that women and men should have the same legal rights, compared to 86 percent of women.
Majorities of men and women agree that women should put education to use in the labor market.
When it comes to education, 88 percent of men and 89 percent of women agree that boys and girls in Egypt should have equal access to the same level of education.
Moreover, 89 percent of women think they should be allowed to hold any job for which they are qualified compared to slightly weaker support from men at 71 percent.
“Gallup found that the more men support women’s participation in the workforce in a given country, the more women are likely to work in professional jobs. If the economy continues to suffer, women’s rights may as well,” the report said.
Despite the economic turmoil, the majority of both men and women still do not support international economic aid to Egypt. Sixty-seven percent of men oppose US aid to Egypt, compared to 61 percent of women. Eighty-two percent of men and 76 percent of women also oppose US aid to political groups, and 76 percent of men and 72 percent of women oppose US aid to civil groups.
However, unlike their counterparts in other Arab countries surveyed, Egyptian men and women rate their future higher in 2011 than they did before their revolution. Egyptians also say the national economy is getting better in 2011 than in 2010.
Thirty-two percent of Egyptians said the economy is getting better in 2011, compared to only 20 percent in 2010.
Sixty-three percent said they were satisfied with the standard of living after the uprising. –The Egypt Monocle