Restrictions on the Rights and Freedoms of Women
In this section I will examine the significance of Islamic human rights schemes for the status of women. I will first consider some of the important facets of Islamic law affecting that status and also the problem, which by now has become acute, of determining what constitutes "Islamic law" on this topic. Next, specific tenets of Islamic human rights schemes will be analyzed to ascertain how they would affect the status of women in the contemporary Middle East. In this connection, I will discuss aspects of actual state practice in the area of women's rights. The relationship of the tenets of Islamic human rights schemes and the principles of international human rights law affecting the status of women is complex; therefore, a separate section covers international human rights provisions relevant for judging Islamic human rights provisions. Because sex stereotyping is an important, though often only implicit, feature in Islamic human rights schemes, the connection between it and international human rights law will also be examined.
The basic features of premodern Islamic law affecting the status of women will be outlined to set the stage for discussion of issues of women's rights. To avoid endless and repetitive qualifications, I will refer to "Islamic law" and "Islamic principles" without detailing the diversity in the positions of the various schools of law and Islamic sects regarding various facets of women's status. Although this oversimplification is necessary to avoid converting this background discussion into a treatise on the Islamic law of personal status, it should be borne in mind that generalizations about where "Islam" stands on questions of women's status can often be misleading, since even within the law