Women in Syria
A female university student in Damascus, Syria in 2010
|Gender Inequality Index|
|Rank||125th out of 152|
|Maternal mortality (per 100,000)||70 (2010)|
|Women in parliament||13% (2015)|
|Females over 25 with secondary education||29.0% (2012)|
|Women in labour force||15% (2014)|
|Global Gender Gap Index|
|Rank||133rd out of 144|
|Women in society|
Women in Syria constitute 49.4% of Syria's population. In the 21st century, the conflict in Syria has had a negative impact on women and their rights, leading to high levels of violence, including war rape. Among the challenges faced by Syrian women are traditional abusive practices such as honor killings.
In the 20th century a movement for women's rights developed in Syria, made up largely of upper-class, educated women. In 1919, Naziq al-Abid founded Noor al-Fayha (Light of Damascus), the city's first women's organization, alongside an affiliated publication of the same name.She was made an honorary general of the Syrian Army after fighting in the Battle of Maysaloun, and in 1922 she founded the Syrian Red Crescent. In 1928 Lebanese-Syrian feminist Nazira Zain al-Din, one of the first people to critically reinterpret the Quran from a feminist perspective, published a book condemning the practice of veiling or hijab, arguing that Islam requires women to be treated equally with men.
In 1967 Syrian women formed a quasi-governmental organization called the General Union of Syrian Women (GUSW), a coalition of women's welfare societies, educational associations, and voluntary councils intended to achieve equal opportunity for women in Syria.
While Syria has developed some fairly secular features during independence in the second half of the 20th century, personal status law is still based on Sharia and applied by Sharia Courts. Syria has a dual legal system which includes both secular and religious courts, and the latter discriminate against women.
Syrian women are legally allowed to participate in everyday life, although they are not guaranteed a spot in being part of political, social, cultural and economic categories. The legal marriage for females in Syria is seventeen years old and eighteen for males. Early marriage is not out of the ordinary in their culture. Even though the legal age is seventeen, the courts can allow for girls as young as thirteen to be married. Women are technically allowed to have a say in what the agreements are between them and the groom. Although, since this contract has to be signed by the groom and the male guardian of the bride, her wishes are rarely met. On the other hand, of marriage, the divorce laws are unique in Syria. Women are in fact allowed to file for divorce except it is a long drawn out process and she must get consent from her husband. There are some circumstances in which the woman can apply for a divorce through the judicial system. In order to do this, she must prove that her husband has abused her or neglected his other duties as a husband. If a man wants to divorce a woman, all he has to do is go to court and orally demand a divorce three times, then the court will order him a divorce.
The early schooling in Syria starts at six years old and ends at the age of eighteen. In Syrian universities, women and men attend the same classes. Between 1970 and the late 1990s, the female population in schools dramatically increased. This increase included the early school years, along with the upper level schools such as universities. Although the amount of women has increased, there are still ninety five women to every one hundred men. Although many women start going to school, the dropout rate for women is much higher than for men.
In 1949, women in Syria were first allowed to vote and received universal suffrage in 1953. In the 1950s, Thuraya Al-Hafez ran for Parliament, but was not elected. By 1971, women held four out of the 173 seats.
The nation of Syria considers itself a republic. Therefore, its government consists of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch of government. The current president of Syria is a male by the name of Bashar al-Assad. There are also two vice presidents (including female vice president Najah al-Attar since 2006), a prime minister and a cabinet. As of 2012, in the national parliament men held 88% of the seats while women held 12%. Current Syrian Parliament is led by female Speaker Hadiya Khalaf Abbas.
Role in economy and in the military
In 1989 the Syrian government passed a law requiring factories and public institutions to provide on-site childcare.
Women are not conscripted in the military, but may serve voluntarily. The female militias of Syria are trained to fight for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. A video was found dating back to the 1980s with female soldiers showing their pride and protectiveness toward Assad's father. "Because women are rarely involved in the armed side of the revolution, they are much less likely to get stopped, searched, or hassled at government checkpoints. This has proved crucial in distributing humanitarian aid throughout Syria."
Between 2010 and 2015, the average life expectancy at birth for women in Syria is 77.7 years, compared with 74.5 years for men.
Crime against women
Honor killings take place in Syria in situations where women are deemed to have brought shame to the family, affecting the family's 'reputation' in the community. Some estimates suggest that more than 200 honor killings occur every year in Syria.
Forced and child marriage
The conflict in Syria has led to an increase in child marriages. The harsh living conditions, the insecurity, and the fear of rape, have led families to force their daughters into early marriages. 
Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava
With the Syrian Civil War, the Kurdish populated area in Northern Syria has gained de facto autonomy as the Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava, with the leading political actor being the progressive Democratic Union Party (PYD). Kurdish women have several armed and non-armed organizations in Rojava, and enhancing women's rights is a major focus of the political and societal agenda. Kurdish female fighters in the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) played a key role during the Siege of Kobani and in rescuing Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar, and their achievements have attracted international attention as a rare example of strong female achievement in a region in which women are heavily repressed.
The civil laws of Syria are valid in Rojava, as far as they do not conflict with the Constitution of Rojava. One notable example for amendment is personal status law, in Syria still Sharia-based, where Rojava introduced civil law and proclaims absolute equality of women under the law and a ban on forced marriage as well as polygamy was introduced, while underage marriage was outlawed as well. For the first time in Syrian history, civil marriage is being allowed and promoted, a significant move towards a secular open society and intermarriage between people of different religious backgrounds.
The legal efforts to reduce cases of underage marriage, polygamy and honor killings are underpinned by comprehensive public awareness campaigns. In every town and village, a women's house is established. These are community centers run by women, providing services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of harm. These services include counseling, family mediation, legal support, and coordinating safe houses for women and children. Classes on economic independence and social empowerment programs are also held at women's houses.
All administrative organs in Rojava are required to have male and female co-chairs, and forty percent of the members of any governing body in Rojava must be female. An estimated 25 percent of the Asayish police force of the Rojava cantons are women, and joining the Asayish is described in international media as a huge act of personal and societal liberation from an extremely patriarchical background, for ethnic Kurdish and ethnic Arab women alike.
The PYD's political agenda of "trying to break the honor-based religious and tribal rules that confine women" is controversial in conservative quarters of society.
- Asya Abdullah is the co-chairwoman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading political party in Rojava.
- Najah al-Attar, Vice President of Syria (since 2006).
- Hadiya Khalaf Abbas, Speaker of the People's Council of Syria (since 2016).
- Îlham Ehmed is co-chairwoman of the Syrian Democratic Council.
- Hêvî Îbrahîm is the prime minister of Afrin Canton.
- Ulfat Idilbi, best-selling Arabic-language novelist.
- Muna Wassef, theater, television, and film actress.
- Hediya Yousef is an ex-guerilla and co-chairwoman of the executive committee of the Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava.
- Razan Zaitouneh, human rights lawyer and activist.
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