All constitutions of the Arab Maghreb countries state – in one form or another – the principle of gender equality, and many of them had ratified the Convention on the Political Rights of Women adopted on 20 December 1952.
According to demographic data in those countries, the male/female ratio is almost equal. In terms of production, women play a key role in the economic sphere, not to mention their role in the social sphere, which is perceived by many people in Maghreb communities as the role for which women were created. On the other hand, we find that women’s role in the political arena is not as important as their other roles within the community. This leads us to ask a few legitimate questions that researchers or anyone interested in women’s issues should ask. Is there a deliberate intention on behalf of political actors to exclude women? Or, is there a dedicated policy of exclusion of women from political life?
In-depth research shows us other things: Maghreb countries have always tried to ensure that women played a full role in political life. Some of them have even practiced some sort of positive discrimination for the benefit of women, in order to have them represented in the legislative institution, as well as in local councils, but where does the imbalance lie?
It is true that Ms. Louisa Hanoune in Algeria, for example, stormed the presidential election but could only get 4.5%, while President Bouteflika got more than 90%. If we link this to what’s political only, this might not be true, considering that the political pattern is only a component of the social system, which remains ultimately responsible for controlling the movement and interaction of its various components. The percentage of votes obtained by Louisa confirms that women do not trust each other when it comes to the political process, and this is a common fact not only for Maghreb countries, but also for all Arab countries.
Where does the imbalance lie then? Erwin K. Scheuch, a sociologist, considers that culture is responsible for the things that we do not find explanations for. Thus, the biggest thing that hinders Maghreb women in the political sphere is the assimilation that people acquired through social upbringing, which present them with a range of ready-made stereotypes. One the one hand, women are considered to be weak human beings, and on the other hand, they are seen as bodies that emit all kinds of temptations; thus, the community has excelled in constraining them, and subjecting them to some sort of behavioural rigidity.
Women’s movements have struggled in the Maghreb to win many concessions in terms of both political and social rights. However, the status of women will change when they are no longer dealt with like bodies only, and this is a dilemma to be solved in the community, not in politics.
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