Monday, 3 February 2014

The Spoils of War

Not as if the Middle Eastern country of Syria has been big on liberalizing Women’s rights but what started as a peaceful protest in 2011 and within months became an armed conflict that continues to grow fatal each day, has made both women and children its easiest targets.

Seeds of the Arab Spring pollinated in Syria over the same issues as the rest of Arab movement i.e. public discontent towards the un-democratic government. The social uprising took an ugly turn when the government decided to respond to the social movement by military action and the Syrian society got divided into pro and anti government supporters.

The women of Syria played an active role in what at one time was an un-armed social movement by participating in demonstrations even supporting and helping displaced refugees. While an armed action by the government in every way or form is detrimental to any section of the society it’s rippling effect on women is anti-progressive and manifold.

Even prior to the rebellion women needed to obtain written permission from male members in the family to travel abroad but at least earlier they weren’t banned from driving by virtue of being a woman or even from taking public transport.

Women in a lot of areas are restricted to leave premises of their houses even for essential supplies, majorly constraining families who have lost male members to the conflict. There is a strict emphasis on what is considered acceptable clothing for women. Women are denied opportunities of education and employment. Male members in the families face extremist threats to ensure women confirm to the social norms. In some provinces, it has come to be socially acceptable to take women as property when they do not seem to comply.

During the peak of the armed conflict women were attacked and even used as human shields. Later while the social system in the country continued to collapse, it was followed by a rise in domestic violence and few reported [most undocumented] cases of sexual violence against women even in security branches.

Poor economical conditions pose threats of forced prostitution. Marriage [even untimely] has come to be seen as a form to ensure daughters are protected and in some cases including a bride price to ensure economic support to the family which makes the women prone to abuse.

The social uprising turned armed rebellion has had a farfetched impact causing the ‘anti-evolution’ of gender equality and continues to be so as peace talks so far have been non-conclusive. Despite all adversity, women continue to play an active role in transitioning Syria by organizing, forming support groups for health care and psychological as well as legal consultation, aiding rehabilitation of refugees thereby continuing their struggle towards a stable society.

 Jotika C

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