A new UNDP report says that discrimination against women is holding back economic and social development across the Arab World, and recommends that Arab women be given greater access to education, employment, health care and public life. Islam is not to blame for the problem, the report says, but rather political inflexibility, male domination and war.
Maternal mortality rates remain unacceptably high - 1,000 per 100,000 live births in the poorest Arab League states - and women suffer more overall ill-health than men. In all but four Arab countries, fewer than 80% of girls go to secondary school. Half of all women are illiterate compared to one-third of men. In public life women's involvement is very limited: they make up an average of only about 10% of members of parliament, for example - the lowest proportion in the world.
"Arab countries stand to reap extraordinary benefits from giving men and women equal opportunities to acquire and utilise knowledge," the report says.