Influences on Arab Attitudes Towards Women’s Rights

A 2012 Gallup poll of Arab women and men reported they had similar views on many issues, such as most supported girls’ right to education. However, women were more likely to support a woman’s right to divorce and work outside the home—except in Syria. Thus, MENA women’s progress into the workforce remains very slow with one of the lowest rates in the world (about 25% of women are employed), along with low representation in government. Religion isn’t the main determinant of attitudes towards women’s rights as economic class is more influential, specially job and education. A troubled economy is more damaging to women’s rights than religious beliefs and respondents were less satisfied with their standard of living after the Arab uprisings. People who favor Islamic parties as likely as supporters of liberal parties to believe in women’s rights including employment and divorce. Men and women are as likely to support Islamic parties. Most Arabs of both sexes want some governmental role for Sharia law, especially in Yemen. Tunisian women express high support for gender equality as well as considering themselves more spiritual than their male peers. They are much more likely than men to believe that women have the right to initiate divorce. Yemen is the only country where men are more religious than women. The poll indicates that the main way to encourage gender equality is to develop the economy.


“After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion and Rebuilding,” Gallup Poll, Summer 2012.

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