By PAUL SCHEMM
RABAT, Morocco (AP) _ Attitudes toward women’s equality are dimmer in North Africa than in the rest of the continent, according to a new poll of about 50,000 people across 34 African countries.
The Afrobarometer poll, conducted in 2011-2013 and released Thursday, found women are at a disadvantage compared to men across Africa, but support for women’s equality is growing.
Those polled in the predominantly Arab Muslim north gave the lowest level of support for equality and described the highest frequency of discrimination.
North Africa in general reports greater wealth and higher levels of economic development than the rest of the continent.
Yet, while 68 percent of respondents across Africa felt women could be leaders, that figure was 50 percent in North Africa, where people in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia were interviewed.
In eastern and southern Africa, nearly three-quarters of those polled felt men and women should have equal opportunities. In North Africa only 50 percent thought so.
The education gap between men and women was also the largest in North Africa, even though the overall education levels there were higher than elsewhere on the continent.
The report was presented in Tunisia, which has long been considered the most progressive Arab nation concerning women’s rights. Despite a conservative Islamist party being voted into power recently, politicians have just completed a new constitution that closely safeguards women’s rights.
Still, Tunisians had one of the highest reported rates of workplace discrimination against women at 53 percent. The continental average was 40 percent.
North African women were also much more likely to report discrimination by police and in the court system, with some 43 percent describing it as common. In eastern and southern Africa, two-thirds said it was rare or never happened.
Pollsters conducted 51,000 face-to-face interviews between October 2011 and June 2013. The survey left out many countries in Central Africa, including Congo, Chad, Central African Republic and Gabon. The error margin was 3 percentage points.