1: Introduction to Syria and Gender Discrimination
1.1: Overview of Syria
Syria, a largest Islamic and Middle Eastern Asian country, is surrounded by the Iraq to the east; Mediterranean sea, Lebanon and Israel to the east; Turkey to the north, and Jordan to the south. The official name of Syria is Syrian Arab Republic which has a total land area of 185,180 square kilometres with a population of 18.28 million. 87% of people in Syria are Muslims and different varied groups of people like Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, and majority of Muslim communities like Alawite Shia (13%), and Arab Sunnis (74%) reside here (World Population Review, 2018). Modern Syria celebrated its independence in 1946 but political instability was still high in the Syria. In 2011, there was the successful uprising called as Arab Spring which has turned the protest into a complex civil war to overthrow the Assad government system involving regional and international powers (BBC News, 2018). Syria is a unitary republic government which follows the semi-presidential style; moreover it has been ruled by the President Bashar Hafez al-Assad of Syrian Ba’ath party. The Civil war is the major issue in Syria which has caused massive social and economic destruction with enormous loss of lives and at present Syria is dependent on external loans, financial activities and imports (Pariona, 2017).
1.2: Overview of Gender Discrimination in Syria
Impact of gender discrimination still exists globally in spite of several progressions. Amongst 188 countries, Syria is one of the worst country with the gender inequality index of 0.554 (Human Development Reports, 2016). Discrimination can be faced either by the males or females, but the history of Syria shows that females were more humiliated than males. Males have already occupied the dominant places in politics, academic or religion but females are limited to the household activities and societal works. On the one hand, males participate in fighting during the war, and on the other hand, females suffer from threatening issue of rape and harassment which led them to escape from the country which is a worst impact faced by the gender discrimination in Syria. (Petzelberger, 2017)
Chapter 2: Gender Discrimination and its issues faced by Syria
Although the world is evolving with noticeable progressions, alarming issues of gender discrimination still subsists today throughout the world.
2.1: Health and Survival:
Gender discrimination has the adverse effect on the health and survival of females rather than males because of the major issues of gender based violence.
2.1.1: Gender- Based Violence: Rape and Early Marriage:
Gender based violence is the major issue as a result of conflict war after 2011 and it happens when there is imbalance of power between the genders. Substantially, rape and early marriage are the major problems faced by the Syrian women, girls, and children (Raistick, 2014). Even men are the victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict as a tactic of war as it includes enforced nudity, masturbation and genital violence where they suffer silently (Asaf, 2017).
Increase in the level of sexual violence against Syria women and girls has been confirmed by the several national and international reports like HRW, FIDH and HRW. Government considers the rape as their major weapon in war in Syria. According to the above reports, most of the cases of rape and other sexual harassments are due to the government armed forces and soldiers at checkpoints, residential areas, house raids, and in detention centres where they are penetrated with the objects, sexual groping, nudity in the public places, electroshock and thrashing to the genitals which increases the trauma and unwanted pregnancy among the victims (Alodaat ; Boukhary, 2016).
For instance, a woman in Syria have reported that she had been raped in front of her husband and three young children and others said that they had been pulled off from a bus and eight of them were raped by a gang where they were all bruised and naked and even pregnant women had been raped. Reports have found out that a number of females commit suicide because of the humiliation and depression caused from the rape (Erickson, 2018) and many Syrians families enforces and encourages their young daughters to marry in order to settle their house and also due to the threat of honor killing. Syrian law permits men to marry at age 18 and women at 17 and even grants the permission to marry at age 15 for boys and at 13 for girls if they attain puberty (Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, 2016). Victims who are suffering from these sort of sexual harassment and who are forced for early marriages are physically and mentally tortured which makes their life hard to survive.
The above figure shows the percentage of reports of sexual violence against male and female where females have suffered at maximum times than the males. Here in report, about 85% of females were victim of rape, 10% in sexual assault and 10% in detention and 40% in gang-rape. It clearly illustrates that females are more abused physically and mentally due to the sexual violence which hampers their quality lifestyle.
As the civil war was started officially in 15th March 2011 leading to the massive destruction of infrastructures, health care systems, public and school utilities, and loss of thousands of life and now it has entered in its eighth year where about 13.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. About more than 5.6 million of Syrians have fled to the country like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Germany and Iraq; whereas 6.1 million of Syrians are internally displaced (illustrated in the figure 3), and half of the children are greatly affected by the wars (World Vision Staff, 2018).
Half of the women and children were leaving their home because of unequal Nationality rights, fear of gender-based violence, collapsed infrastructure, and lack of equal educational facilities (Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, 2016). According to a UNICEF report more than 2 million children are out of schools and 1/3rd of schools are not in use as they have been damaged by the bombarding in the wars and parents fear to send their daughters in schools because of fear of sexual violence and kidnapping. 80% of people are living in poverty line in Syria and it has broken the social and business ties among the Syrians (World Vision Staff, 2018). Due to the conflict of war, women lost their family members due to which they are sole care taker and bread earner and had to suffer a lot of humiliation in terms of rape. So they are forced to leave the country or get internally displaced so that they can receive help from the UN agencies like UNICEF, UNDP, and UNESCO ranging from employment to health care and men migrate to find the work opportunity and prevent from going to the wars (Asaf, 2017).
The above figure shows the exponential increase in the number of refugees the region every year all due to the conflict of war which has been increased from 3.6 million in 2015 to 5.5 million in 2017.
2.3: Political Economy and reduced productivity:
The traditional belief regarding women as inferior and males as superior still exists in Syria because women depends on the decisions made by their husbands or any male guardian at home as they are considered as leaders. Women are restricted to work because men and local councils consider them to be qualified only for domestic activities. Still, some women work outside as civil servants, nurses, workers, and teachers as they are only the bread earner of their family due to the death of male members at war; however, the participation of women are less because of increasing trauma and depression due to the sexual violence, and lack of technical and decision making skills. (CARE, 2016)
Women were excluded from the political representation in the Union which emphasized on gender inequality issues because they were considered as incapable of holding political issues resulting women holding less than 12% of parliament seats (Alsaba ; Kapilashrami, 2016). In Syria, about 94% of men have registered in their own name as compared to 34% of women to get the aid from the local council because men are termed as invisible and the chances of their arrest is high if they register in their wives name. More than 16% of women face difficulty to access to basic needs as compared to 24% of men. (CARE, 2016)
Women are the one who have greatly suffered from the war and even they have become the form of currency for all the civilians and warring parties of Syria. They have become the part of the war economy where they are traded and kidnapped for the weapons and goods, to secure profit, to cross the border and for leverage in negotiations. The Islamic state has collected more than $40 million in Iraq and Syria from the victim’s families. There are many cases where rape of women has been seen as the trade to pass the border and even in July 2015, government arrested two women and released them in exchange of 20 weapons and they are treated in a very indiscriminate manner to get the weight in their negotiation on the exchange of criminals. (Carrié, et al., 2017)
The above figure clearly illustrates the dropping down of the GDP of Syria every year from 2010 to 2014 and is still estimated to decrease in its GDP because more than millions of people have been killed and displaced from the Syria. About 49.9% of women have no equal access to employment as men which is also the result of lower productivity in Syria. When little people participate in the production process, the GDP will surely be decreased.
2.4: Potential Solutions:
Gender-based violence, migration, and political economy are still one of the serious ongoing problem which is also expected to increase throughout the year, mainly due to the lack of political stability and strict government actions which has brought the war to the eighth year in Syria leading to exploitation against males, females and their children. So, these problems should be solved as soon as possible in order to bring personal and economic freedom in Syria.