Traditional enemies begin the battle [Archives:2008/1190/Opinion]

September 15 2008

Mona Safwan
While serious efforts and strong stands came together to support the addition of a woman to the membership of the Supreme Commission for Election and Referendum (SCER), a campaign, opposing women's participation in politics and social activities, emerges. The campaign claims that women's political participation means defying religion and that religion doesn't accept women's involvement in politics.

The struggle for women's participation in politics

Several weeks ago, the Advancement & Prosperity Forum (APF) began collecting signatures of women and human rights groups and organizations as a strategy for exerting pressure on the relevant agencies in the government to add a woman to the SCER membership.

This has been a persisting demand since the most recent local council elections in September 2006, which led to the appointment of Elham Abdulwahab as manager for the recently established women's department in the SCER.

But this was not the sole ambition of the women's movement. Chaired by Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh and Dr. Raoufa Hassan, the APF strongly backs all women's involvement in political life, notably in the elections as voters and candidates.

The opposition of the Islamic political movement

However, the recently established Virtue Protection Authority Forum has begun its fight against women's quota through various political websites as part of its battle against all forms of evil in society, according to its terminology.

It maintains that women's quota is seen by religious clerics as a violation of God's Legislation.

According to serious jurisprudential effort, women's quota poses a threat to Islam, particularly according to some extremists, who call on other conventional forces in society to follow suit in opposing women's participation in politics.

117 was the number that headed a religious letter that publicly called for prohibiting women's quota, despite a presidential initiative to allocate 15 percent of Parliament seats to women after which the APF was established.

The presence of a fatwa by senior religious clerics in Yemen, issued to rescue politicians and place them formally outside the battle, implies that the Islamic political movement is the direct opponent of the women's movement in this struggle.

The battle is not over yet

As usual, the women's movement's conventional enemy has demonstrated its strong objection to women's participation in politics, by saying that political parties are not entitled to approve women's political activity, or their specific share in elected bodies, even if these parties have the capacity and political will to do so.

What has already happened doesn't surprise us, nor is it the end of the battle.

Especially after so many female activists rejected the so-called fatwa banning their involvement in politics, the women's movement has not raised the white flag yet.

Women seem to be in need for an urgent fatwa to reassert women's role in politics and to begin the battle in earnest.