Culture of Shame Is Practiced When Committed By Women

National Yemen

Young Female Girl Acts as Barber

Asma al-Mohattwari

Shame is a word that has destroyed a lot of women’s dreams and has turned innocent actions of women into forbidden acts in Yemen’s male-dominated society.

Safa and her friends are tired of the word shame that they hear when they practice some of their rights. It is shame to eat in a certain way because she is in a hurry; it is shame to sit on the sidewalks because she is bit tired and men use insulting words against women, which isn’t considered shameful. The disaster was that society replaces the word shame with forbidden and turns customs and traditions to religion.

One day, Safa and her friends left their college to eat. They stopped and ate in a cafeteria on the road. Suddenly, everyone stopped eating and stared at them. Their eyes were saying, “what a shame, they are women they shouldn’t eat here, it is forbidden.”

After that, Safa, Ghadeer, Abeer, Amani and Mariam decided to produce a film called Between Custom and Religion. The film discusses four jobs that women in Yemen can never practice because of traditions and the culture of shame, not because of religion. The four jobs are barber, butcher, bus driver, and traffic policewoman.  “We brought the community something out of the ordinary to see the reality and know how many unjust judgments they have made against working women,” said Safa.

The film has received different reactions among women. Noor Ahmed said that Yemeni society doesn’t prevent women from working and she is with men in all fields, but according to what is suitable for her. “I honestly don’t like the film. It shows jobs woman themselves will not accept, even if society accepts it. I am sure no woman will accept working as a butcher, for example.”

Unlike Noor, Line Ali said that it is a great and a daring idea. “In other societies women can work the same as men. The problem is in their minds, not in their jobs, because to work is not a shame, women are working to provide a living not for entertainment.”

Safa said that they chose such jobs just to make the idea reach all people, not to say that women should work such jobs. “We want to say it is not forbidden, but people create a culture of shame to destroy the dreams of women.”

From the beginning of humanity, women have suffered unequal and unfair treatment. Some of this treatment can be traced back to the earliest stories of the world’s religions. Everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve, the first two human beings that God created to live in a paradise on earth. Some religious figures—many of them male—believe that Eve was responsible for Adam’s eating from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. As a result, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and in their punishments were created all of the suffering and injustice in the world we now inhabit. The Qur’an, however, places equal blame on both Adam and Eve for their mistake. Nowhere in the Qur’an can one find even the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat from the tree, or even that she had eaten before him. Eve in the Qur’an is no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. God, according to the Qur’an, punishes no one for another’s faults. Adam and Eve committed equal sins and then asked God for forgiveness; He forgave them both.

The issue of women’s rights has been addressed by humans for a long time without ever achieving a satisfactory solution. Before Islam, women were held accountable for many negative events, and they had no rights within their societies. According to the traditional Islamic narrative, women in Pre-Islamic Arabia had almost no rights. They were not considered equal to men and were thus dictated under a strict patrilineal system. They were viewed as objects and constantly humiliated. Women had very little control over their marriages and could not inherit property. In the family, their purpose was no more to bear children, even though they had no rights to these children once they were born. When a woman gave birth to a female, it was considered a disgrace to the family. Female infanticide was a common practice.

At a time when female children were considered fungible property, and sometimes buried alive for their crimes, Islam called for the honoring of women and the protection of their rights. Islam protected women’s rights to education, employment, inheritance and many other aspects of society.

To those who prevent women from studying or working, Dr. Murtadh al-Mohattwari has a history lesson. Dr. al-Mohattwari is a professor of law and the founder of the Bader Mosque. According to al-Mohattwari, Islam encourages women to be educated and to have a job. He refers to Khadija, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, who was a merchant both before and after converting to Islam.

With the passing of time, Arab societies have become governed by strict customs and traditions. Some of these customs suggest that aspects of Arab culture are guided more by male preference than religious instruction. Now, however, the concept of women’s rights is becoming more common.

History shows that women have played major roles in Yemeni society.  The Queen of Sheba, for example, is a source of pride for the Yemeni nation. In addition, Yemen’s Queen Arwa has been noted for her attention to infrastructure, which contributed to a documented time of prosperity under her rule. Modern day women of Yemen, however, are subjected to a society that reflects largely agrarian, tribal, and patriarchal traditions. This trend, combined with illiteracy and economic issues have caused women to be continuously deprived of their rights as citizens of Yemen.

It cannot be denied that woman have broken into a range of different professions at all levels. Many of the fields in which women once worked were originally exclusive to men, but women have since began exploring work opportunities outside of the home, finding ways to contribute in both political and economic activity.

1 Comment