Saturday, December 03, 2011

Oppressing Women Does Not Pay

On the level of a country, that is. The international competitiveness of a country suffers from that need for the oppressor to keep one foot on the neck of the oppressed. Hard to do much work while being locked together that way.

More seriously, the proper oppression of women requires women to be uneducated, unable to earn money on their own and severely limited in mobility. The maintenance of all this is a job in itself, and countries which choose to go this way have handicapped more than half of their populations. This will have negative economic consequences.

Sure, countries which have won the resource jackpot of oil can maintain women's oppression because of that extra source of income. But when the oil reserves run out, they must face the same basic economic facts: Choose to oppress women and you will choose ultimate poverty. This is because women are half of all people. Throwing away most of women's human resources will keep a country poor without those Deus ex machina resource jackpots.

But there is a more direct example of how oppressing women might not pay. Take the Egyptian election results, where the very conservative Nour party has fared well, currently placing right after the more moderate Islamic Brotherhood:
The Nour Party espouses a strict interpretation of Islam similar to that of Saudi Arabia, where the sexes are segregated and women must be veiled and are barred from driving.
No wonder that the Islamic Brotherhood states that it doesn't want to go quite that far. Tourism is an important industry for Egypt:
The Egyptian tourism industry is one of the most important sectors in the economy, in terms of high employment and incoming foreign currency. Egypt is one of the best known touristic countries in the world. It has many constituents of tourism, mainly historical attractions especially in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, but also beach and other sea activities. The government is always trying to promote foreign tourism since it is a major source of currency and investment. There are plans to get to 14 million visitors by 2011, by means of the improvement of touristic facilities and advertising of Egyptian tourism in international media, in order to maintain a steady demand for visiting Egypt.
Tourism is also very important in Morocco and Tunisia, both countries where moderate Islamic parties won recent elections. Banning women from swimming with men, requiring women to wear veils and so on could kill the tourist industries of all three countries, because most of those tourists come from Europe and my guess is that roughly half of them are women. Even if the rules only applied to local women, few tourists would enjoy being scowled at for not being properly covered, say.