India, Syria engaged in same debate on quota for women

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New Delhi, Jun 19 (UNI) Like India, Syria, which is one of the very few West Asian countries with a secular Constitution, is engaged in a national debate on the issue of reservation for women in Parliament and other legislatures.

Women at present form 13 per cent of the Parliment members, but there are demands for earmarking certain percenatge of seats for them, visiting first lady of Syria Asma Al-Assad said here today.

''In fact this issue is being hotly debated in our country,'' she said in a meet the press programme at the Indian Women's Press Corps here.

There are strong arguments both for and against the issue. The supporters of the proposal say that it was hightime that women were given their due share in political power, but those against the reservation feel that women in the country were active and assertive enough to make a place for themsleves, and giving reservation to them would make them complacent, said Mrs Assad.

She said today Syrain women were working in every field, including the Army, and they were occupying high positions, but the real challenge was to uplift them at the grassroot level.

Mrs Assad said the focus in her country was on urban areas, but the need was to shift it now to rural areas.

In this connection she also wanted to know from women journalists here as to why in India women were occupying very high position, but at the grass root-level, they did not seem to have much opportunity.

When asked what percentage of women were wearing 'Hijab' in her country, she said she would not be able to tell the percentage, but what was important was that whether they were socially aware and active and enjoyed their civil and political rights.

She said the sex ratio in her country was 50:50, and that was an indicator of the place of women in the Syrian society. In fact syria is very women-focussed country, she added.

Mrs Asad said, Syria was a multi-faith and multi-culture country and its secular constitutions had given equal civil and political rights to all.

Replying to a question on the reinterpretation of Islamic laws, she said the Quranic laws had been reinterpreted very positively for women. Giving an instance, she said the laws have been modified to ensure maitenance to the child in the divorced mother's custody till the age of 15, which of course was done in the face of lot of resistance from some quarters.

Giving another example, she said the Chief Mufti was now working on inducting women muftis, which would be a break from the tradition, and this move was also meeting opposition. A mufti is a jurist to interpret Muslim laws.

Replying to another question, she said, ''In the economic sphere too, our main objective was inclusive growth''.

On the question of safety of women on the streets, she said women in Syria were enjoying complete safety in their movements.

Mrs Assad is accompanying her husband Dr Bashar al Assad, who is here on a five-day State visit to India, the first by a Syrian President in three decades.

UNI NAZ SLD KN1840

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