Southall Black Sisters (SBS) is a collective of South Asian women.1 We operate an advice, resource, and campaigning centre for women in Southall, an area in west London with a large South Asian population. In comparison with many other Asian communities in this country, Southall is heterogeneous and has a cosmopolitan feel to it. All religions and ethnic groups of the Indian Subcontinent are present there, although the Punjabi Sikh ethnic group and religion are dominant.
Who is to say if the key that unlocks the cage might not lie hidden inside the cage?1
If justice and fairness are inherent to Islam - as fuqaha claim and all Muslims believe - should not these virtues be reflected in the ‘Islamic’ laws that regulate the relations between men and women as well as their respective rights? Why have women been treated as second-class citizens in the fiqh books that have come to define the terms of the Shari’a?
* This paper inevitably draws on my previous writing on the international network Women Living Under Muslim Laws, especially ‘Controlled or autonomous: identity and the experience of the network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Volume 19, Number 4, 1994, pp 997-1019. Moreover, the analysis presented owes much to the women linked through the network. Any idiosyncrasies, however, are obviously my own.
Many feminists of colour have demonstrated the need to take into account differences among women to avoid hegemonic gender-essentialist analyses that represent the problems and interests of privileged women as paradigmatic. As feminist agendas become global, there is growing feminist concern to consider national and cultural differences among women.
Marieme Hélie-Lucas Founder and former international coordinator of WLUML
Algerian sociologist, mother of four, born in Algiers 1939 to a family of feminists. Active in the liberation struggle of Algeria. Taught epistemology and methodology in the social sciences in Algiers University before founding WLUML.
Deniz Kandiyoti Reader in the Department of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies and Chair of the Center of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus, University of London, UK
This report is part of a project to analyse and research discrimination and violence against women in the GCC countries. In July and August 2004, Amnesty International (AI) delegates carried out research in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.