While we are here in this place, we must note that for us women, the rhetoric of the seventeenth century of human rights has failed. In countries where radical Islam dominates, millions of women have no access to the rights that we consider essential. Here in Europe, on the contrary, in the "headlong rush" toward the invention of "new rights", we forgot the fundamental rights: how many women are there in Europe that do not have the opportunity to choose between motherhood and work?
The harsh reality is that by putting forward the idea of "human rights" in society, we made of it a sort of metaphysical entity. Our society presents itself as secular, but many of us believe that it must be based on a creed, that of "human rights", which, without a solid social and legal foundation, is nothing other than the umpteenth religion; that of the State, this time.
The harsh reality is made of concrete issues and numbers: as in the case of the 47-49% of women in the Muslim world who participate in neither education nor social life, because they are secluded and separated. The paradox of this number is that in European countries where immigration is stronger, very often a misunderstanding of the meaning of "respect" of other traditions has led to a situation in which immigrants from nations such as Morocco - where women are currently experiencing a season of rights, instruction and openness - in Europe, are forced to be retro compared to their compatriots who remained in their country. They are prisoners of their micro-community where the heritage of oppression is still strong. This is tolerated by our states for fear that a firm stance might be deemed to be "racism."
Therefore, a new paradigm is needed which provides for a radical critique of the development model designed in Europe and the contrasting one that is followed in many countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. In European countries, the liberal capitalism considers women as a productive factor and consumer, forgetting that the fundamental nature of the feminine is maternal. Even the social policies of these European states have a greater tendency to safeguard the productive role of women than their reproductive one. For the dominant ideology in Europe, it is indeed essential for women to be integrated into the market economy, rather than allowing them to be happy and realize their dreams. If a woman wants to be a mother, for liberal capitalism this is a "necessary evil" to which one responds by providing a "bare minimum" of public payments (or better still private ones), such as childcare and subsidies, so that women’s productive and consuming functions have as little impact as possible on their economic utility.
Can we call all this respect for human dignity?
The model of development of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean - except for episodic examples such as Morocco, Tunisia and Syria, despite undergoing five years of terrible civil war led by reactionary and fundamentalist forces – displays more shadow than light. In those countries where radical movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, have an impact on society, we are witnessing an attack against human rights and the emancipation of women conducted systematically and with lasting effects. Just look at the fight without mercy these radical ideologies are conducting against education and the arts, accusing them of being guilty of encouraging critical thinking in individuals. Girls are the first victims of a system that considers study and education as its enemies.
However, the problem with the fight against critical thinking is something that must also be seriously considered in European countries, where the cultural flattening accompanied moreover by laws, which introduce for the first time since the end of World War II limitations to the liberty of expression, pose a serious threat to the ability of citizens of European nations to really interpret the world around them. All of the human rights proclaimed in all written papers from 1789 until today are useless if the individual does not have sufficient self-consciousness to understand them, make them their own and act in synergy with other citizens so that, from mere statements on paper, they become, through concrete social action, a vivid and effective reality. The women in European nations must therefore develop a strong consciousness of representing exactly one half of their society, a half on which nature has conferred some serious responsibilities - above all motherhood – of which, again from nature, are derived some binding rights for all members of society, women and men in perfect equality.
In this context, a new paradigm for the interpretation of human rights is the key to confront the challenges posed by the dialectic between the two “shores” which are the Mediterranean and immigration in Europe. Integration is possible for those who, entering into a society, share its non-negotiable values. However, this does not mean that these non-negotiable values must be absolute and valid for all peoples and civilizations, after millennia of different histories and destinies. Therefore, the critical sense with which a society is able to interpret itself is fundamental when confronting others, even when they do not share certain values. In this case, even if it is not be possible to fit in, it is always possible to confront each other from one’s own position without reciprocal aggression and, most likely, with a more profitable exchange of cultural enrichment, real and true; not that proposed by some unrealistic narratives that sing the praises of the mixed race.
In conclusion, reflecting on human rights and women opens up new perspectives. With her exclusive double nature of individual and generating new individuals, women are precisely the key to understanding the social and collective nature of human rights: human rights do not exist without a conscious society with a critical sense and, therefore, with the will to make these rights real and effective. The conscience and critical thinking are, in turn, the key to face and confront other societies, to understand where integration is possible and, on the contrary, where it is right to continue the path of reciprocal coexistence and understanding in diversity. It is imperative for women to play their role in this process, in order for them to be women, true women, not numbers and functions producing market statistics.
Author: Ms. Souad Sbai
Journalist, Professor and former Italian Parliamentarian
Souad Sbai was born on February 5, 1961, in Morocco and has been an Italian citizen since 1981. She is a Journalist and Professor, former Parliamentarian in Italy and, since 1997, President of the “Moroccan community of women in Italy”. Having a PhD in Comparative Law, she holds master classes and seminars on women's rights issues, infibulation and immigration and integration. In 2005, she served on the Council for Italian Islam, with the Ministry of Interior, to combat fanaticism and jihadist extremism, including in Italy and, in 2015, she was recognized as an honorary member and member of the scientific committee of the association, Aster Academy International.