Women on Frontline of Religious Divide, says Amnesty

May 23, 2007

Source: Middle East /times


LONDON -- Women have become key victims of growing religious intolerance fueled by a growing clash between the West and the Muslim world, human rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday.

"In an environment of fear and religious fundamentalism, governments have backtracked on their promise to promote gender equality," said Amnesty chief Irene Khan in the foreword to the organization's annual report.

Governments should have an "obligation to safeguard a woman's freedom of choice, not restrict it," she said, citing notably the example of the Islamic veil and headscarf.

Amnesty noted that the items of clothing have "become a bone of contention between different cultures, the visible symbol of oppression according to one side, and an essential attribute of religious freedom according to the other."

"It is wrong for women in Saudi Arabia or Iran to be compelled to put on the veil. It is equally wrong for women or girls in Turkey or France to be forbidden by law to wear the headscarf," said Khan.