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Gender and Law in the Middle East

Since September 11, 2001, the Middle East has assumed an especially prominent role in many Americans’ thoughts on foreign affairs. Given the historical and cultural differences between this region and the United States, the sudden importance of the Middle East allowed for a variety of stereotypes to take hold. Due the attacks of September 11, terrorism often comes to the forefront of many students’ minds when examining this part of the world. However, the somewhat common images of veiled Middle Eastern women also have led to the view that gender-based discrimination prevails throughout these countries. This curriculum unit offers the opportunity to assess the extent to which this perception accurately defines the Middle East in terms of its countries’ laws.

Students will examine the ways in which a person’s gender determines his or her place within the legal system as well as the effects of such differentiation on the larger society. The School District of Philadelphia’s curriculum for World History touches upon numerous Middle Eastern states over the span of thousands of years. Consequently, this curriculum unit presents the opportunity to identify the diversity of legal systems and their treatment of women as distinct from men. Through an examination of the laws themselves, the stories of the people affected by them, and historians’ interpretations of available material, students can decide whether or not gender-based discrimination has existed or does exist in the laws of Middle Eastern countries. This prompts the discussion of the ways in which social factors influence the writing of laws and the reciprocal impact of laws on society. Within the 9th grade World History class for which this unit is designed, students can develop their reading, writing, and research skills with a focus on analytical reasoning and decision-making.

Matthew Roy
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