Muslim Women's Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East
Russell, Kathryn L.
- Western norms and the decisions of international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union have created a certain overarching idea of what women's rights should look like. There is often disregard for the fact that women don't all want the same things. The Middle Eastern Muslim world is a different cultural sphere, and women there have different cultural norms, religious texts, laws... read more, desires and challenges to address when they think about what their rights should be. / This thesis addresses three fundamental questions: what do Middle Eastern Muslim women want?; is the Western notion of women's rights applicable in a Muslim context?; and what role should gender rights play as a foreign policy goal for the United States? I analyze theological scholarship by four prominent feminist authors, who argue that Islam as a religion is not the deciding factor in the perpetuation of gender inequality in the Muslim world. I also conduct case studies of Egyptian and Turkish women's movements as well as Egyptian and Turkish reactions to the 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Egypt and Turkey both ratified with reservations to Article 16, which concerns marriage, and Turkey has made more progress since ratification toward meeting CEDAW standards. I also analyzed Turkey's progress in regards to European Union gender rights law, and found that while some progress has been made, these requirements have had a mixed impact on Turkish women. / I then perform an in-depth analysis of the evolution of gender rights in U.S. foreign policy, and determine that women's rights are already an important part of U.S. policy in the Middle East, and that if we are to support the emergence of true democracy there, especially in post-Arab spring countries, we must continue our emphasis on women's rights in the future. /read less