Egypt, the cauldron of the Arab Spring, is the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, while the Union of the Comoros is the best, and the condition of women in Iraq worsened after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, according to the findings of a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.
Egypt was followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen as the worst Arab countries for women, while Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar followed Comoros as the top countries for women according to the survey, which sampled 336 gender experts. The survey's findings also showed that the status of women in Egypt has worsened after the Arab uprising, which began in Egypt two years ago, contrary to expectations that the movement would empower women.
An increase in the past two years in incidents of sexual violence, harassment, trafficking of women, high rates of female genital mutilation, or FGM, and curtailing of women's rights, has pushed Egypt to the bottom of the list, the report said.
"We removed the Mubarak from our presidential palace but we still have to remove the Mubarak who lives in our minds and in our bedrooms," Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy said, referring to Egypt's toppled dictator, Hosni Mubarak, Reuters reported.
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According to the findings, 99.3 percent of women and girls are subjected to sexual harassment, while 27.2 million women and girls -- or 91 percent of the female population -- are victims of FGM.
"As the miserable poll results show, we women need a double revolution, one against the various dictators who've ruined our countries and the other against a toxic mix of culture and religion that ruin our lives as women," Eltahawy said.
In Iraq, the survey reported significant deterioration in conditions for women since the U.S.-led invasion, which has led to a mass displacement of families, making women vulnerable to trafficking and sexual violence.
Saudi Arabia ranked as the third worst country in the poll, for its repressive laws that curtail women’s basic rights. Women in Saudi Arabia need a guardian’s permission to travel, enroll in education, marry or undergo health care procedures, and it is the only Arab country that has banned women from driving. And, the country's patriarchal laws do not recognize marital rape, and rape victims face the risk of being charged with adultery, the survey said.
Women in Syria, which is embroiled in an armed political conflict between the government and opposition forces, also face the consequences of mass displacements such as trafficking and sexual violence from both the government and rebel forces, the report said.
Comoros, an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, fared well in all segments of the survey except for political representation. Women in Comoros enjoy comparatively greater social freedom and normally keep house and land rights in the event of a divorce, the report said, adding that more than 35 percent of Comorian women have jobs, and sexual abuse is recognized and punished.
Similar to Comorian women, those in Oman too enjoy better social protection, and sexual violence is punished, but FGM continues to be practiced in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti women enjoy better education and inheritance rights compared to women in other Arab countries, the survey said.
The survey, conducted in August and September, assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society, and attitudes toward a woman’s role in politics and the economy, in 22 Arab countries.
The full survey report is available here.