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The veiled truth: Gender equality and banning the burqa

Gooderham, Sarah (2013) The veiled truth: Gender equality and banning the burqa. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis explores the idea that all Muslim women who wear the burqa are oppressed and that, in countries like Australia, the burqa must be banned because it is in opposition to a core Western value of gender equality. This thesis emphasizes that the mainstream debate around banning the burqa and Muslim women has been built upon certain understandings of the Muslim faith and its cultural practices, which fail to take into account the many varied positions Muslim women take on their faith and the wearing of the burqa. Muslim women’s voices are completely omitted from the debate because they, especially those that wear the burqa, are denied any notion of agency.

This thesis argues that the burqa debate is pinned onto the fixed idea that the West is committed to equality between the sexes and that Islam is utterly opposed to it. Thus Muslim women must be oppressed and Western women liberated. This clear dichotomy has allowed Western women to articulate themselves as having achieved equality; however the reality is that Western women do face many instances of oppression based upon their gender and many are similar to the ones that Muslim women experience, especially in relation to their dress. Social constructions of womanhood are created through clothing and many of the normalised clothing choices of Western women are just as, if not more damaging to the status of women. The call to ban the burqa does nothing to further the status of women, instead it divides women and distracts from the much larger issues women face globally: violence, poverty and unequal access to opportunities. The burqa debate in fact hinders the progression of women’s rights because it implies there are certain choices that are wrong and which women cannot make for themselves.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Politics and International Studies
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Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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