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Allowing Women To Travel And Work Could Destroy Society,
Claims Muslim Brotherhood

By Countercurrents.org

16 March 2013

Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood warns that a UN declaration on women's rights could destroy society by allowing a woman to travel, work and use contraception without her husband's approval and letting her control family spending.

The document, “End Violence Against Women,” is planned to be ratified by the UN Commission on the Status of Women and is now being negotiated as part of the 57th session.

The Muslim Brotherhood, in a statement on its official website, claims that the articles of the declaration “are destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution.” The Islamists claim the document would “subvert the entire society and drag it to pre-Islamic ignorance.”

Among the clauses which the organization finds offensive are an article that would enable women to choose the gender of their partners; use of contraceptives by teenagers; and a clause that allocates equal rights for homosexuals and protection for sex workers.

Some other articles the Egyptian leadership finds challenging include granting “equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships” and giving wives “full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood urges the leaders of Islamic countries and their UN representatives to reject and condemn this document,” the party said in the statement.

The issue of Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men has also been condemned in the outline.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen also found unacceptable a call for “canceling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like travel, work, or use of contraception” and rejected the idea of abolishing “polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending.”

A proposed amendment by Egypt, that would have allowed states to avoid implementing the declaration if they clashed with national laws, religious or cultural values, failed. Some diplomats said it would have undermined the whole document.

Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan, along with Honduras and the Vatican, expressed reservations about the declaration, but did not block adoption of the 18-page text.

Moscow, the Vatican and Tehran meanwhile voiced concerns over emergency contraception, abortion and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Gay rights and sexual and reproductive rights, they argue, should also be decided by each nation separately.

“There's this sort of unholy alliance ... coming together to oppose language on sexual health, reproductive rights and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights,” a senior UN diplomat told Reuters. “It's tough going, but progress is being made.”

The US welcomed the declaration but lamented that references were not made to lesbian and transgender women and that the term "intimate partner violence" was not used to capture the range of relationships in which abuse can happen.

Last year, disagreements over sexual and reproductive rights issues prevented the commission from agreeing upon a declaration of a theme of empowering rural women. The commission was also unable to reach a deal a decade ago when it last focused on the theme of ending violence against women and girls.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said states now had a responsibility to turn the 2013 declaration into reality.

"Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage," Ban said in a statement. "No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear."

While the declaration of the commission, created in 1946 for the advancement of women, is non-binding, diplomats and rights activists say it carries enough global weight to pressure countries to improve the lives of women and girls.

The 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is comprised of 45 countries united by a goal of stopping violence against women worldwide.

The CSW is part of the UN Economic and Social Council. It was launched in 1946 with annual summits aimed at setting global gender equality policies.

Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women's Health Coalition, said the declaration was a victory for women and girls, but could have gone further to recognize violence faced by lesbians and transgender people.

"Governments have agreed to take concrete steps to end violence," she said. "For the first time, they agreed to make sure that women who have been raped can get critical health care services, like emergency contraception and safe abortion."

The full declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women can be seen at: www.unwomen.org


[1] “Egypt's Islamists warn giving women some rights could destroy society”,

[2] March 15, 2013 “‘Misleading and deceptive’: Egypt's Islamists slam UN women’s rights resolution”,

[3] “U.N. body agrees on women's rights policy, skirting sexual politics”




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