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Women's rights improving in Middle East, North Africa: report

[JURIST] Women's rights and opportunities have increased in nearly all Middle Eastern and North African countries over the last five years, but women in those countries still face many obstacles in achieving equality, according to a Freedom House [advocacy website] report [materials] released Wednesday. The report found that in general, women in those countries had more opportunities for employment, education, and political participation than they did five years ago. Only the politically unstable countries or territories of Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine saw a decrease in their treatment of women, according to the report, whilehe greatest progress was made in the Persian Gulf countries, which were ranked as the worst violators of women's rights five years ago. Despite the progress, the report found that women in the region still have little recourse for domestic violence and face employment, education and politics. The report cautioned, "While it is possible to identify net gains or losses for women's rights in a given country, the situation is rarely as simple as that, and the course of events often reflects a great deal of contestation."

Last month, Saudi Arabia proposed a new law [JURIST report] that would allow female lawyers to practice in some areas. In October, Kuwait's Constitutional Court ruled that female lawmakers are not required [JURIST report] to wear the hijab [JURIST news archive], the traditional Islamic headscarf, and that women do not need permission [JURIST report] to get a passport. A 2008 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] report found that female domestic and migrant workers faced frequent abuse [JURIST report] throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

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