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Muslims Consent to a Global Mission to End Violence Against Women
By Steve Schueth

And  Simone Aliya

After a decade of resistance, leaders of Muslim nations have finally agreed on the language of a United Nations declaration urging an end to violence against women and girls. We weren’t there on Friday night, March 15, 2013, but we join the loud applause that is reported to have erupted when consensus was finally reached among the members of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

This historic, albeit nonbinding, declaration has been signed by 130 nations. It calls on all nations to coordinate with law enforcement officers, civil society, and judicial systems to condemn all forms of violence previously considered as cultural or religious practices. In order to get Muslim nations and the Vatican on board, in the end, Western nations relaxed demands for references to gay rights, abortion, and marital rape—though it does identify combating domestic violence as a priority.

No surprise, Eqypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has claimed that this declaration breaches Islamic law and will lead to the “complete disintegration of society.” It’s a claim that most in the West view as ridiculous. However, given the fact that close allies of the Brotherhood control Egypt’s parliament and presidency, it’s indicative of the high likelihood that passage of this declaration may not change life in the short term for Egypt’s females.

According to a 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 83% of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed in their lifetime, while the assault of street children goes widely unreported. Female genital mutilation was banned in 2008, but according to some surveys, up to 90% of Egyptian women may have been victimized by the practice.

The condition of women is a key measure of progress for every nation. Indeed, a strong relationship exists between ending violence against women and enriching life physically, socially, intellectually, and economically. The agreement of Muslim leaders to actively eliminate and prevent violence against women is a potential springboard for creating a world that is vibrant, diverse, and sustainable. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

As responsible investors, we encourage organizations that promote social welfare to build upon efforts to improve the status of women globally.

While many Muslim nations may be wary of changing the role women play in their societies, soon they will hopefully see that empowering women across the globe will provide rich returns—in multiple forms.

Posted: March 26, 2013