Washington: Women's rights have improved in 15 of 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa over the past five years, although violence against women remains widespread throughout the region, a US study has found.
Democracy watchdog group Freedom House pointed to "modest" economic, educational and political progress for women, despite a continued pushback from religious and cultural elites, in a region where women suffer more inequality than anywhere else.
Women in Tunisia, which along with Jordan provides legal protections against domestic violence, topped the list with the most rights, followed by their counterparts in Morocco,
Algeria and Lebanon, the group said in a study released on Thursday.
Yemen and Saudi Arabia lagged significantly behind.
The plight of women worsened only in Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories, amid internal conflict and a rise in extremism.
In Kuwait, women earned the same political rights as men, and four women were elected to Parliament in May for the first time in the country's history.
A 2005 reform in Algeria improved women's autonomy in the family and lifted a family code that had recognised women as guardians of kin and tradition rather than autonomous individuals.
First Published: Friday, March 05, 2010, 08:37