Feminism History and Oman

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The feminist movement has become a distinctive feature of the world today. Even countries with a long history of democracy and human rights have feminist movements calling for justice and an end to what is known as the patriarchal system, or male dominance.

Feminism is usually defined as a system or set of systems of ideas and political practices based on the principle that women are human beings equal to men,[1] and various types of feminism have been posited, such as liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist and socialist feminism and cultural feminism.[2]

Some academics trace the history of feminism back to before the Common Era, to the poet Sappho in ancient Greece, while others see the roots of the modern movement in the writings of the English novelist Jane Austen, who has been described as one of the mothers of modern feminism.[3] However, it was in the late 19th century that the feminist movement really became clearly identifiable as well as more organised and influential.[4]

The first wave of feminism took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its core objectives being to open up opportunities for women and demand the right to vote.[5]

The second wave, which began in the 1960s and continued into the 1990s, largely focused in the United States on passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing social equality regardless of sex.[6]

The third wave, which emerged in the mid-1990s, was led by a group of women born in the ’60s and ’70s who had benefited from the gains made by the first and second waves.[7] A Danish gaming company called Pinkfloor caught the spirit of their movement by promoting the widely adopted mantra that “it’s possible to have a push-up bra and a brain at the same time”.[8] The aims of this third wave were focused on women’s independence, and presented them as independent beings not subject to the patriarchy or to men.

The fourth wave began in about 2012 in reaction to rape culture and sexual harassment, among other issues. One particularly high-profile incident contributing to the emergence of the fourth wave occurred in India in December 2012, when a young woman was brutally gang-raped and subsequently died.[9]

Although feminism’s attackers have often attempted to misrepresent the movement by accusing it of extremism, or of causing the disintegration of society and breaking up families, feminism in fact does the opposite of this. It does not support sexism against either gender, but works towards equality, not female superiority.[10]

Despite a long history of feminist struggle, women continue to suffer injustice and discrimination in many countries of the world, even developed nations. For example:

  • In some developed nations women are still paid less than men, even for the same job.
  • There are still very few women in senior government or private sector positions compared with men.
  • Sexual harassment and rape are still commonplace in many countries, including some with strict laws on the matter.

In Oman, in addition to the points already mentioned, women also suffer from laws that are sexist in themselves, such as the Omani Citizenship Law, according to which an Omani woman married to a non-Omani man cannot pass on her Omani citizenship to her children; and Royal Decree No. 38 of 2014, which lays down rules that make it almost impossible to do so.

Young women who study at universities and colleges are confined to their student accommodation blocks and forbidden to go out without their guardians’ permission.

Omani law also legitimises violence against women where a male guardian sees it as in women’s best interests. This is supported by a reference in the Quran to beating women as a means of discipline that husbands should follow.

There is still no law in Oman that criminalises marital rape.

Men have the right at all times to divorce their wives without giving a reason, whereas women must provide a justification for seeking divorce (such as the husband’s absence for a certain period of time) or else it will not be granted. On the evidence of several cases the Omani Centre for Human Rights has heard of, in which women have gone to court seeking divorce, it seems that judges always see wives as being at fault, and, on the pretext of reconciliation efforts, they are subjected in court hearings to humiliation, censure, blame and degradation. Judges even shout at them to be quiet and prevent them from defending themselves, frequently making their plight even worse. Lawyers have commented that this kind of behaviour is completely normal for judges in Oman, and not seen as in any way objectionable.

Also, although the country’s Personal Status Law forbids the marriage of a woman under 18 years of age, it nevertheless allows judges to authorise the marriage of young girls if they consider this in their best interests.

So, what do you think: does the world still need feminism

to continue and step up its struggle for equality?

“Feminism no longer just refers to the struggles of women;

it is a clarion call for gender equity.” [11]


[1] George Ritzer and J. Michael Ryan, The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology

[2] Kinds of Feminism, https://www.uah.edu/woolf/feminism_kinds.htm

[3] Martha Rampton, Four Waves of Feminism, https://www.pacificu.edu/magazine/four-waves-feminism

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Britannica, The Third Wave of Feminism, https://www.britannica.com/topic/feminism/The-third-wave-of-feminism

[8] David E. Newton, Sex and Gender: A reference handbook, pp. 45-46

[9] Britannica, The Fourth Wave of Feminism, https://www.britannica.com/topic/feminism/The-fourth-wave-of-feminism

[10] T. De Rozario and H. Zheng, 11 Myths and Facts about Feminism, http://www.aware.org.sg/2010/02/myths/

[11] Martha Rampton, op. cit.