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Some Concluding Remarks

Arab women’s struggles confirm T. H. Marshall’s thesis regarding the historical process of the expansion of the rights of citizens. The incorporation of new groups into the body politic—such as the European working class in the early twentieth century and Middle Eastern women in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—heralds the expansion of rights and the enlargement of civil society. Arab women’s struggles also confirm the salience of international factors—the global women’s human rights agenda has given Arab women the additional discursive and moral legitimacy needed to advance their movements for full citizenship.

A reading of the literature produced by women’s organizations and women’s rights activists suggests that some gaps remain in the conceptualization of rights and obligations, and some tensions need to be resolved. Among them are class issues (including the social rights of working men and women, and of the poor), the status and rights of immigrants and contract workers, and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. This latter issue is important, given the systematic discrimination that non-Muslims experience. More emphasis on women’s social citizenship rights is important, as this can alter gender stratification and the patriarchal gender contract. The relationship between the state and citizens, and their respective rights and obligations, also requires elaboration. It is true, as many feminists argue,32 that the empowerment or

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full citizenship of women is an inseparable part of the formation of civil society.33 But it is also true that the emergence of civil society is contingent on the existence of a state that enforces universal legal norms and guarantees protection of civil, political, and social rights regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and religion. Through their insistence on the rights of women as individuals, women and the feminist organizations are forcing a reconsideration of the role of the state vis-a-vis its citizens. But this role and relationship need to be elaborated and more explicitly addressed.

A major difficulty facing women’s rights and human rights activists lies in the tension between a national identity based on Islamic civilization and culture, and the call for civil and political rights that may be construed as unduly inspired by Western traditions. In Lebanon, where communal traditions hold sway and the state is weak, changing the legal framework would be difficult, even though many feminists are in favor of civil codes that supersede sectarian authority. In Syria, where the state is strong, legal changes may be more feasible, but there is still a powerful official ideology that invalidates ‘‘Western’’ concepts and practices and relies on the politics of ‘‘authenticity.’’ Thus, nationalism and Islam remain the major discursive frameworks, although this seems to be changing. Among the countries of the region, Tunisia seems to have crafted a national identity and legal framework that reflect its own Arab- Islamic heritage as well as social and gender rights as understood internationally. Elsewhere, women’s organizations need to develop a framework for recognizing identities and elaborating equal rights for all in a way that draws on history, cultural understandings, and global standards.

Citizenship and civil society are contested concepts and conditions, reflecting historical processes and social relations, culture and political economy. They are products of internal processes as well as external pressures. It is unlikely that the Arab countries will ever develop citizenship regimes that resemble either the liberal model or the social- democratic model. However, several countries could well develop a citizenship regime that is still communitarian, but less patriarchal and more consistent in its implementation and enforcement of civil, political, social, and participation rights and obligations.

In the meantime, the “modernizing women’’ of the Middle East are challenging popular understandings and legal codes regarding the public sphere and the private sphere; they are demanding more access to the public sphere, full and equal participation in the national community, and full and equal rights in the family. These gender-based demands for civil, political, and social rights would not only extend existing rights to women but also, and more profoundly, broaden the political agenda and redefine citizenship in the Arab world.

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Heruntergeladen am | 02.06.17 15:51

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