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Women’s Rights in the Context of Islam is possible

UNFPA jointly with OHCHR and UN Women organized a training workshop on "Realizing Gender Equality in the Family within a Framework of Islam" during 17th to 20th November 2013. Twenty eight individuals from various institutions came together to gain knowledge and to clarify misconceptions. The sessions were delivered by experts on Quran Tafseer and Figh through the world renowned Malaysian based NGO, Sisters in Islam.

In Maldives, religion is commonly seen as a challenge to advance women's rights. The public at large has accepted domestic violence. According to the Demographic and Health Survey 2009, 30 percent of the women justified husband beating a wife for reasons such as burning the food, arguments, going out without telling, neglecting children or refusing sex. The study entitled "Rights Side of Life" commissioned by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives in 2011 echoes similar attitudes from men towards women's rights, particularly in the family. For example, men are less likely now (compared to 2005) to agree that it is wrong to hit their wives. Arguments from a religious perspective are often used to justify domestic violence and a protectionist approach towards women and girls, which limits their rights and mobility. The same study indicated that among those who believed religion is in conflict with human rights, the most often mentioned reason is women's right to equality .This conception about gender equality in Islam has been observed in some Friday sermons and expressed through media, social media . In various gender sensitizations conducted by UN agencies, Ministry of Gender and Hope for Women NGO the same views have been echoed even though many scholars underscore gender equality in Islam.

At the end of the four day session, one participant shared that developing nations are actually "quite backward" given the discrimination faced by the women in those countries. She added that she would do what she could to dispel the conception that Islam and women's rights are incompatible. A police officer, who provides victim support, said that he now has the knowledge to support women's rights and to deal with those who justify domestic violence. Other participants realised that they needed to do much more research and that knowledge is a powerful weapon in upholding rights for women.