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Is the Multiculturalism good or bad for women?
Multicultural world is what we have today. Nowadays, there is a huge wave of immigrants all over the world every year. Many women are integrating into the absolutely another culture, because of many reasons, in most cases, because of better work placements, higher education, high social worth of women's labor in law-full enfranchisement and activity for the wife, annulment of special criminal regulations affecting women, franchise for women. Big percent of those immigrants are political refugees. Countries that easily accept immigrants and have special immigration policies are becoming or already are multicultural. Still, the main question is open: is Multiculturalism good or bad for women? Of course, so many men, so many minds. But the reality is one and unique for everyone. These and other questions will be answered.
Key words: Multiculturalism, multicultural society, integrating, women.
Nowadays, we live in a multicultural world, where each person probably knows more than 10 other people from different cultures. How would that come into being? The first answer may be – a technological progress, which has brought a huge amount of opportunities for the cooperating and communication all over the world. But, still, what the multiculturalism itself is? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the multiculturalism is the term, which defines "characteristics of a multicultural society" and "the policy or process whereby the distinctive identities of the cultural groups within such a society are maintained or supported" ("Multiculturalism: What Does It Mean?").
Academic sources are providing definitions of multiculturalism as “anything from people of different communities living alongside each other to ethnic or religious groups leading completely separate lives” ("Multiculturalism: What Does It Mean?"). Lord Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth claims in the Times:
“Multiculturalism was intended to create a more tolerant society, one in which everyone, regardless of color, creed or culture, felt at home. But, multiculturalism's message is "there is no need to integrate".” ("Multiculturalism: What Does It Mean?").
So, generally speaking, the multiculturalism is an ideology, directed on the promotion of the institutionalization of communities that contain multiple cultures ("A Multicultural Society."). Does this multicultural society bring benefits to its people, especially women, or the general picture is not that bright and optimistic? This question is being disturbing the world society form many decades. According to Roida Oktay Rzayeva, Assoc. Prof., Deputy Director, Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, being a “new one” in the new society does not mean to be its full member yet. The multiculturalism changes an “alien” into the “another”. Still, provides respect for mental bounds of social residence of each person from the particular culture (Oktay Rzayeva, 131). This is absolutely right statement. Being integrated into some other culture does not mean that this particular person is already a part of some concrete society.
As it was above said, the multiculturalism is “anything from people of different communities living alongside each other to ethnic or religious groups leading completely separate lives” ("Multiculturalism: What Does It Mean?"). According to this, the main multicultural policy is to keep original norm of cultural minorities in terms of peaceful coexistence with the major culture. If to be specific about women’s place in the multicultural world, here it is important to mention some basic pros and cons of the multiculturalism, concerning women.
higher education, which not every culture provides for women;
more works opportunities;
higher social worth of women's labor;
more women became candidates in political atmosphere;
franchise for women.
Still, the main advantage is that multiculturalism gives a perfect opportunity for women to gain their own brand new lives by getting a job of their dream and being someone they always wanted, but couldn’t be in their native culture because of plenty different specific aspects. These ones are: religion, social norms, people’s stereotypes and others. Also, the multiculturalism protects the human’s right and so, a woman’s as a great unbreakable part of it, including: black women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), not only considering religious aspect (Tatchell, "Multiculturalism vs. Human Rights?").
So, what the multiculturalism gives women, concerning, higher education, for example? First of all, it is an opportunity to show themselves as real intelligent women, who are eager to realize themselves in different spheres of labor: from being doctors, to being teachers or art- experts.
Referencing to the quotes from female Muslim students, the main aim is to show that once the secular freedoms of university life “liberate” them from their strict “cultural traditions,” from “growing up under the lockdown” with strict “moral directives” and “pressures to safeguard familial honor,” all of which feed into popular racist stereotypes about Muslims’ alleged backwardness and unconnected identities (Ahmad, Fauzia. "Muslim Women’s Experiences of Higher Education in Britain.").
For example, Halima cited the practical value of her B.Ed. and how it had encouraged her to think about specializing and studying further:
“The course was brilliant it wasn’t boring, it wasn’t the same thing every year, it was different things and it sort of really helped to develop myself and to become a more effective teacher with more awareness. I could now go abroad and teach the degree has given me the base to go further with this idea to do children’s psychology and maybe go into the NHS (Halima, 23, B. Ed, recent graduate, Bangladeshi.)” (Ahmad, Fauzia. "Muslim Women’s Experiences of Higher Education in Britain.").
This above mentioned cited research, held by Fauzia Ahmad, shows that the multiculturalism gives a great opportunity for women from the minor cultures to become somebody they really want. It gives them an opportunity to establish different connections not only within their only culture, but also with people from other, absolutely different cultures. In any cases it broads their worldview, it helps these women to integrate more into the major society, which is giving them these kinds of opportunities.
Talking about cons, it is important to note some basic of them, such as:
Female Genital Mutilation;
many women still have been abused by the representatives of the male sex;
ignorance of women’s rights, including women, whose cultures and religions sanction practices deny women's fundamental rights;
discrimination in the major society towards their religious and social beliefs;
stereotypical perception and problems on the work placements.
The basic con of the multiculturalism for women is a polygamy, which finds them even when they are running or are already living in the country of the major culture. The polygamy, which is the special type of marriage that allows having two and more spouses, is mostly represented as one man has many wives. Mostly, women do not have any chance on the divorcing. But if such happens – the parental custody rights are getting in favor of the father, rather than mother. In such cases, women are mostly becoming isolated from their children and from their role as a wife in general (Grossbard, Shoshana. "Polygamy Is Bad for Women."). Such marriage type abuses not only women’s rights, but also their sense of self-dignity.
Also, one of the most abusing acts against minority women is the Female Genital Mutilation. What is FGM? According to the World Health Organization’s Media Center:
“Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” ("Female Genital Mutilation." World Health Organization)
This is absolutely and totally unacceptable. It has been using in the non-medical purposes, and it is contradicting all rights, concerning specifically women: health rights, as the main, personal rights of making choices for themselves, the right of making their own decision of being woman in the future. Thousands of girls and women, especially, in Africa and the Middle East are under the risk of being cut and more than a hundred millions of women and girls have been already cut ("Female Genital Mutilation." World Health Organization). If a girl from the minor culture, where such procedure is practicing comes to the major culture, where such acts are forbidden by their law, still, there is a chance for them to be protected. In the 2008, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution (WHA61.16), in which the elimination of FGM was claimed, emphasizing the need for coordinated action in all sectors - health, education, finance, justice and women's affairs. After that, many other actions were undertaken by different organizations from different countries, such as USA, UK and others ("Female Genital Mutilation." World Health Organization).
According to the last disadvantage about work placements, this type of situation seems to be more than realistic, which is not that optimistic at all. As an evident of such discrimination by the religious aspects, it is important to give Heather Elawawadh’s researches as perfect examples of such attitude towards Muslim Women:
“Companies may see the hijab and immediately make the decision to not hire because of her religion of choice, as the scarf may not have “a place in their work environment”, completely disregarding any and all skills the applicant may hold.” (Elawawadh, Heather. "Women in Hijab: Uncovering Discrimination in the Workplace.")
The main reason why are such situations occur, is that people in many countries did not use to see women in hijab, that is why such kids of discrimination are happening quite often. The main reason is that different job policies of the major countries are not predicting many labor conditions for people, especially women, from the cultural minorities. Such situations are making women be scared for their lives and their future.
Another perfect example, which is about Imane Boudlal, Heather Elawawadh, a woman, who was hired in 2008 to work at a hotel restaurant within the resort:
“When Boudlal was hired she did not wear the hijab. No one could tell she was Muslim, she admitted she was scared to wear the scarf when she was only a green card holder because she did not want to be discriminated against, but when she finalized her citizenship she decided to wear her hijab and openly practice her religion.” (Elawawadh, Heather. "Women in Hijab: Uncovering Discrimination in the Workplace.")
Why minority women should be that scared? Why does the “multiculturalism” not care about such kinds of women’s rights discrimination? If multiculturalists want to create a perfect multicultural world, they need to take to the consideration all the main aspects of it and also, all the main problems that may appear on the way to it. As multicultural world envisages a “peaceful co-existing of a number of minor cultures within the major culture” it should take into account all the possible aspects, as positive, so negative.
What about “women’s right” question, here, in this case, women seem to get slightly better changes here. So, what does all of the above mentioned mean? Even in the multicultural world they belong to their minor culture. This means that still, they have to follow all religious, social and cultural norms of that culture, where they are from, no matter in what society they are living now. This situation is not bright and optimistic. Women are getting abused and beaten; they are betrayed and left alone in their problems. For example, in the 2007, the German magazine “Der Spiegel” has provided a long list of different kinds of multicultural verdicts, which were made not in women’s favor. So, these verdicts are:
The first one: a Lebanese-German, who strangled his daughter Ibthahale and then beat her unconscious with a bludgeon. He did that, because Ibthahale didn't want to marry the man, whom her father had picked out for his daughter. After all, he was sentenced just to the mere probation. The main explanation was in his "cultural background" – it was cited by the judge as a mitigating factor (Hari, "How Multiculturalism Is Betraying Women.").
The second one: a Turkish-German, who killed his wife Zeynep to death, stabbing her with the knife in such city, as Frankfurt, was sentenced to the lowest possible sentence. Again, why did that come into happen? It is all because, the judge said that the murdered woman had violated his "male honor, led out from his Anatolian moral concepts". The third one: a Lebanese-German, who raped his wife Fatima, while whipping her with a belt was sentenced to probation, with the judge citing his cultural background and religious beliefs (Hari, "How Multiculturalism Is Betraying Women."). All of these sad examples of such a cruel relevance to women, as from the side of their family members, so the Justice, are showing that women are still have no rights, just because, not that much of their background – as more of their husband’s, father’s or others representatives of the male sex.
Despite on the worldwide important and fundamental documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, a situation concerning women’s rights has not changed much. Still, as we can notice here, the cruelest relevance women are getting from the Islamic world. But still, even nowadays, in the world of democracy and loyalty, why such “social- cultural accidents” are happening? Why it is controversy between women and multiculturalism? Whether or not a minority group has the right to maintain their traditional patriarchal heritage if the subjection of women is part of that tradition, while from the viewpoint of liberal multiculturalism, cultivating traditions is on one hand to be desired.
For the better explanation, it is important to go back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This document claims that women and men have equal rights in all spheres of their social and cultural activities. It's significant that this declaration should have said this at the time it was written because none of the states of America that signed and ratified it had equal rights for women. There were plenty of social and cultural aspects, which were legally different and unequal for men and women in the United States of America and England. But not just these countries had unequal relevance towards women. For example, French women couldn't even vote; in Switzerland, women could vote at some levels but not others were allowed to (Moller Okin, “Is Multiculturalism Bad For Women?”). Is all of that fair? The answer is – not at all. Today, even if women have more rights, they still face sometimes injustice towards them.
Many other disadvantages of such multicultural policy are also quite evident as well. They are all those programs, directed on the human’s and so, women’s right defense, are not always coming into action. Many women, especially from the Islamic world, other minor cultures and sex minorities are suffering from the injustice towards them.
Why is that happening? For the better explanation, there is a good example: those three sad accidents, described in the abovementioned German magazine “Der Spiegel”. All of these three women came or were born in the new country, totally different from their native ones, and so – they have become a part of a brand new society with its own norms and specific cultural aspects.
After facing the violence from preventatives of the male sex, they were expecting to get protection and fair punishment for those who caused that violence. Instead of it, referring to the multicultural policy dogmas and stated norms, these punishments were not sufficient. Moreover, there is no information, whether these women were not getting under the violence again and again after the judgment court.
As it was above said, the term “multiculturalism” carries a message of the peaceful co-existence of the different types of minorities, especially cultural ones, it claims about the keeping of their own cultural original norms and beliefs. In other words – it is when one minor culture is moving to absolutely another territory and place, to the similar or absolutely different society. That is why judges in those cases of those three women were referring to cultural and social norms of the Islamic World, even if those women were expecting the judgment according to the European and so, German Judgment System.
This and many other problems nowadays multicultural society is facing today, but the greatest part in all of, of course, plays this particular sexual discrimination. According to Judit Hell, this type of the discrimination is a fundamental tradition in a plenty of non-European (Islam, Gypsy) cultures. In some countries of the Middle East Arabian world and where Islamic religion is a fundamental one, an equality of women and general human rights will be less than granted. Women are often denied education and better work placements. Women of such beliefs are not allowed to walk in the streets without man, who will escort them. They are not even allowed to drive a car. Such women are denied in the divorce, but, at the same time, can at any time be dismissed by their husbands. Women of such cultures probably are not able even to differentiate the "sexual discrimination" as something absolutely wrong and unacceptable (Hell, "Women's Issues and Multiculturalism.")
According to the above said, here goes an answer of where such problems go from. Many women just don’t recognize sexual discrimination and gender inequality as such. That is why many of them are still suffering from the domestic violence not even in their native countries, but also, in others, where they do live now. It is all because their original cultural norms taught their society that men are on the higher level than women are. They are taught that women have fewer rights and that it is prohibited for them to get many jobs, men are allowed to get. This is not right, even according to the modern multicultural policies. Women should be protected. Liberal democracies should protect the individual rights of all women within their borders.
That is why, according to all the above said, the following personal opinion was built: even though multiculturalism cannot promise all women rights, it has improved. The situation has been changed and getting better. More and more governments in different countries are starting to understand the main problem of the multiculturalism, especially, concerning women, as they are unbreakable part of the World’s society. The Multiculturalism gives women a right to get higher education, as they wanted; it helps them to become a full righted unit of the World’s Society.
So, as a conclusion, it is important to mention that even nowadays, in times of the World Democracy and Human Right’s protection, women are still struggle from the injustice and impolite, intolerant relevance towards them. Still, the Multiculturalism gives women a plenty of different opportunities, such as higher education, better work placement, and consequently, better social status. It brings them a stronger sense of self-dignity as well. Such women are more liberate and they are eager and self-conscious to make decisions for themselves as full-righted social units. According to these aspects, the multiculturalism is more good for women, rather than not.
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