Historically, men have always dominated in both social and private lives of women and Algeria is not any different. Algerian women had to suffer extreme hardships from French colonizers and then their husbands and government. Women have had a deciding role in Algeria gaining its independence from France but this did not change the matter of things and cruel and unusual treatment that they receive today, should not be tolerated or allowed.
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Zahia Smail Salhi in an article titled “The Algerian feminist movement between nationalism, patriarchy and Islamism” talks about the abuse Algerian women have received at the hand of the French colonizers. They were sexually assaulted, auctioned, killed and dehumanized. It is extremely difficult to accept that mere one hundred and fifty to two hundred years ago, a civilized European nation, France, could allow such atrocities to happen.
Soldiers behaved like savages excluding themselves from all that is human. Women had no way of fighting back, as Algerian men were also being colonized. This added even more hardships to women because they would suffer from their husbands too, who were angry and mistreated by the French colonizers. Then, the French realizes that the key to overtake Algeria is to strike at its heart, which was women and their preservation of homes and tradition.
They set out to assimilate female population and the treatment worsened. Women had no choice but to fight back and they took up arms. They led active warfare against soldiers and patrols and finally succeeded. At the time the French were still present and Algeria was a colony, women’s rights movement has begun; this took place in 1940 (Salhi, 2010).
Catherine Lloyd describes the next era that has begun when women started a revolution and the feminist movement has gained great momentum. The article “From taboo to transnational political issue: Violence against women in Algeria” describes the revolution at the time of occupation by French, which added even larger strain to the conditions in the country.
The French realized that they had to fight against the whole nation and their cruelty increased, “it was estimated that Algeria lost a quarter of its population, in the period up to independence in 1962” (Lloyd, 2006). Women’s protests and fighting for their rights continued on two fronts, one was the French domination and the other was their own national government and male population, with a view that segregated and dehumanized women.
It seems unacceptable and unimaginable that some twenty years ago, in the modern age of human rights and freedoms, women had to and still suffer such abuse. The most despicable fact is that during the colonization and the Revolution women would fight alongside men and there would marriages between comrades.
The Algerian society was united where women were appreciated and enjoyed equal treatment and authority. But after the war has ended and women returned to their homes, men went back to their old ways and continued to deny women of their rights and freedoms. This sort of treatment led to the next period of fighting of women for their equality that continues in the present times.
An article titled “Women and politics in Algeria from the war of Independence to our day” by Djamila Amrane rightfully signifies an important and deciding role that women played in the independence of Algeria. It centers on the help that they provided in the following years but acknowledgement of their input disappeared, as if it did not exist.
The fact that women helped to build back the ruins of society and the heroism they showed in the war efforts, was forgotten by their husbands and the government. Men would get divorced from their wives and get married to younger women and this left their previous wives homeless and with children.
The laws deprived the female population of all rights, giving full authority to the man. The government kept reinforcing policies that were degrading and unjust to women. It was forgotten that more than ten thousand women fought for Algeria and helped society get back on its feet. Women would not be allowed to work in professions that required formal and higher education, they would be denied to unveil themselves in public and any form of protest was strictly prosecuted (Amrane, 1999).
Governmental and social abuse of female population continued to the modern times and is described by Karima Bennoune in an article “The war against women in Algeria”. Again, women were forced to form underground organizations and the fierce and determined women’s movement resumed its strength.
As if this was not enough, the nineties and the modern days have brought about an Armed Islamic Group that would openly shoot and kill women in public. The religious fundamentalists would and trained militants would subject women who did not wear their veil to inhuman suffering.
There are a number of cases where students would get acid thrown in their faces if they appeared in public without a veil, young girls and women would get kidnapped, assaulted and killed (Bennoune, 1995). The modern times have brought about same harsh and beast-like treatment of women.
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All four articles describe horrific treatment of women in different periods of time by men and government. Women are still forced to meet in secret and fight against traditions that are not relevant anymore. The long history of women’s fighting and protection of their nation was not enough to change the world. Women deserve equal rights, freedom and respect, as much as men do, if not more.
Amrane, D. (1999). Women and politics in Algeria from the war of Independence to our day. Research in African Literatures. 30(3), 62-77.
Bennoune, E. (1995). The war against women in Algeria. Ms, 6, 22.
Lloyd, C. (2006). From taboo to transnational political issue: Violence against women in Algeria. Women’s Studies International Forum. 29(5), 453–462.
Salhi, Z. (2010). The Algerian feminist movement between nationalism, patriarchy and Islamism. Women’s Studies International Forum. 33(2), 113–124.