Program to discuss gender issues

By Leah George-Baskin

Beginning today, the University programs of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the Woman and Gender in Global Perspectives Program will put on an international symposium titled “Family, Gender and Law in a Globalizing Middle East and South Asia.”

The purpose of the symposium – which will take place from Oct 7 through Oct 9, mostly in room 405 of the Illini Union – is to promote the comparative study and dialogue of family, gender and law between South Asia and the Middle East.

The conference will look at a number of subjects that deal with family law and how it impacts women in the non-Western world, said Ken Cuno, one of the planners for the event and director of the South Asian and Middle Eastern studies program. Cuno, who is also an associate professor of history, said this is an important topic because of the wave of activism that is taking place in the Middle East and South Asia, and also because of the actions, both past and present, taken by the United Nations in those regions.

Since the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 30 years ago, countries have signed on to follow its doctrine against the discrimination of women.

Cuno said the symposium is meant to explore the tension between the international idealism expressed in CEDAW and local and particularistic values that are in confrontation with these national standards.

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Cuno hopes the symposium will look at the question of what should take precedence and which principles should come first: universal ideas or the local values grounded in religious interpretation.

The symposium will begin at 7:30 tonight with a lecture by Suad Joseph on “Family, Gender and State in the Middle East and South Asia.” Joseph, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Davis, will speak on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center. On Friday and Saturday, there will be a group of panelists presenting papers discussing Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Emirates, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey.

The speakers and guests of the symposium will consist of Middle East and South Asia specialists who will present their papers on family, gender and law of these regions in the past 100 years.

All events are free and open to the public.

For a detailed program of the symposium, go to http://www2.uiuc.edu/unit/psames/events/FGLSymposium.htm.