Women in saudi arabia

Introduction The topic of this paper will focus on the women in Saudi Arabia. This topic is not only interesting and timely; it shows that even the countries whose economy is highly developed, can still have problems within the country. Saudi Arabia may be a paradise and an attraction for many people to live in because of its economic stability and its high living standards, it is also a nightmare for many of the women who live there with no rights. Saudi Arabia is a prime example of how some countries still deprive women of their basic rights, and treat them in a way that is inferior to men.

Although Saudi Arabia is being run on the basis of the Islamic Shariaa law, it goes beyond what Islam says and it deprives women of their autonomy. The injustice ranges from the way women are forced to dress to the roles they are forced to play in society. In Saudi Arabia women’s voices are muted and they have almost no freedom to express themselves in any fashion. It is a country which clearly holds the roles of men as being much higher than those of women. The preconceptions that men in Saudi Arabia have about women are old fashioned and deprive women from becoming autonomous.

However, recently women are beginning to realize their rights and more women are beginning to speak out against the injustice that they are living in. It is my hypothesis that the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia is not only outdated and contradictory to basic human rights, but also if women were able to develop their capacities the country would benefit. Role of Women Despite some of the improvements that Saudi Arabia has made in the area of gender roles, it still lags behind in allowing women freedom in many areas.

It is a general viewpoint in Saudi Arabia that women belong inside the home and that employment outside of the home is the role of a man. This viewpoint is expressed by many important male figures. Sheikh Salah Bin Fawzan Al-Fawzan was quoted as saying “Allah created man and woman, and endowed each with an inborn inclination for certain types of work – because human society needs both men and women to work in their designated [areas]: men work outside the home and women work inside it” (Azuri). According to figures presented in the article by Azuri, women in the Saudi Arabia workforce comprise only 5%.

This percentage is extremely low, and in fact is the lowest proportion anywhere in the world. This percentage shows how unjust the system is in Saudi Arabia because according to statistics, women make up around 70% of the students in Saudi Institutes of higher learning (Azuri). This staggering difference between the women who are educated and the women employed shows how much potential women have in their intellectual abilities as compared to how much they are allowed to apply themselves in the workforce.

Despite the many oppressed women that are in Saudi Arabia, a minority of the women were able to break free and establish high positions in the work force. A prime and rare example is Businesswoman Lubna al Olayan, who in 2004 was elected to the board of directors of Saudi Hollandi Bank, making her the first woman in Saudi Arabia to hold such a position (Saleh). Her success was attributed mostly to her connections through her rich family, however, she still remains a source of inspiration to many women.

Although the stereotypically defined role of a woman in Saudi Arabia is to stay at home and take care of the children she does not have all of the rights to make decisions for her child. They cannot enroll their children in school, open bank accounts for them and they can’t even travel with their children unless there is a written approval by the father (“Sex Segregation Keeps…”). In a sense women are assigned a task by society, but they are not able to fulfill the task which they have been assigned. Dress

Women in Saudi Arabia are required to abide by a strict dress code which is enforced by the mutawaa, who are religious police (“Why was I Born a Girl? ”). Women dress in a long veil which must be black or a very dark color as to not attract the attention of any men. Any bright colors or beaded and sequined clothes which attract attention are not allowed to be worn by women. The clothes must be loose fitting and modest. The neqab is enforced in many parts of Saudi Arabia, which involves the woman covering her face with only her eyes showing.

This dress is not limited to adult women, but it can also be applied to young girls, depending on the view of the Islamic police which are enforcing the law (“Why was I Born a Girl? ”). Although many of the women have stated that they would be willing to wear the hijab by choice, that freedom is not given to them (“Why Was I Born a Girl? ”). The women do not have any say in deciding whether or not they want to dress this way because the dress code is strictly enforced by the government.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan represented the view that women should only have one eye showing and cover the other eye, because when they show both eyes they are encouraged to put on eye makeup, which in turn makes them more seductive to men (“Saudi Cleric Favors One-Eyed Veil”). Habadan is said to have a very large influence on conservative religious people in Saudi Arabia, and through this influence he may be able to get people to share in his views. The dress that women are forced to wear in Saudi Arabia is a hindrance to their abilities to function.

They wear very heavy and thick clothes. If the views of Habadan where applied then the dress would be even more impractical and very inconvenient for women. The dress is not only a nuisance when the weather is hot but it also hinders women from doing simple tasks. Mobility and Driving As a form of segregation, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive a car. This has been justified by the government because they say that if women drive then they will mingle more with men, which will entail a breech in the Shariaa law (“Saudi Woman Takes the Wheel”).

Some people also take the stance that driving will allow women to leave the house more, and that this is not acceptable because women’s place is in the home. So, according to the people who implement this strict law, they say they are trying to protect women so that they do not stray from Islamic ways or violate the Shariaa law (Al-Munajjid). Despite the many injustices that women face, there are a few women who have dared to take a stance and try to break free from these binding restrictions that are set against them.

A reason that is stated as to why women are not allowed to ride cars is that in the event that a car should breakdown, a woman may need to get in contact with a man (“Saudi Arabia: Sex-segregated…”). In July 2005 a woman took the wheel and drove in order to try and save her husband who passed out while driving. Even though this was a natural impulse because she was trying to save her husband it was a huge step for women in Saudi Arabia. This was one of the few times where a woman took charge and defied the ban that the country has on women driving (“Saudi Woman Takes the Wheel”).

In March 2008 Wajeha Huwaider took an active step towards pushing for women’s equality by being one of the few women that has ever driven on a main road. She made a protest video which was posted on YouTube and was viewed by millions of people. She was the first person to take such a stance since the 1990’s when many women were arrested for driving around Riyadah (“Saudi Women Make Video Protest”). Also in this article it is mentioned that many Islamic Scholars have agreed that this ban on women is not necessary, however, many conservatives in the country are still opposed to lifting the ban on women driving.

Although many officials have also agreed that women should drive, they believe that it is a social issue and it must be accepted socially by most people before it can be implemented (Ambah). Although there is nothing in Islam that explicitly denies women the right to drive, Saudi Arabia continues to enforce women’s ban on driving in order to prevent the implications that may come out of women driving. Some people declare that the ban on driving is not a hindrance to women, but instead women in Saudi Arabia live luxuriously and get to be driven around instead of driving around themselves (Bradley).

Segregation The forced segregation between the sexes has made it difficult for proper development and for women to become more autonomous in Saudi Arabia. In the workforce if someone were to hire a woman, he would have to make sure to keep her separate from the other men (Saleh). This forced segregation in the workforce makes it more expensive for the employer to hire women because he would have to provide an area exclusively for them where in which no man would enter (Saleh).

The forced segregation even in the workplace impedes development because no employer will want to hire a woman if she will cost him more money so therefore they are left out of the workforce. Segregation of women and men goes beyond the workplace and it is implemented in more day to day activities. A woman must be escorted by a man or get permission from a close male figure in her family if she is to leave the house or travel or do anything outside of the house (“Sex Segregation…”). Women also have to shop in places designated for them.

Because women and men are not allowed to work together, the shops are run by men who are usually from a different country. There are even elevators that are labeled as “Ladies Only” (Martin). Even at restaurants like McDonalds, which is a popular hangout spot for many people in countries outside of Saudi Arabia, women order on one side and have a certain area where they have to sit, while men order on another side and are free to sit wherever they choose in a public area (Martin). According to sources, the only places where women and men are allowed to work together freely are hospitals (Martin).

In shopping malls the restrictions and paranoia have reached extreme limits. In some malls women who want to try on clothes must put down a deposit and take the clothes to the restroom and try them there in order to ensure that a man will not go into the fitting room (Martin). There was even talk that they wanted to have separate sidewalks, one for men and one for women (“Sex-Segregated…”). The many forms of segregation in Saudi Arabia usually tend to be convenient for men and end up being inconvenient or a hassle for women. Political Participation, Rights, and Violence

There have been many officials and leaders in the country that have said that they agree to women having political freedom and voting rights, however, the actions say otherwise. In the Municipal elections which were held in Saudi Arabia in 2005, women were not allowed to vote. Although the election law that was published did not explicitly ban women from voting, there was said to be an administrative problem which was there where not enough women electoral staff to run a women only voting station (“Saudi Women Barred…”). A woman may not appear in court or even marry without the permission of a male guardian (Ambah).

Only recently did women gain the right to stay in a hotel room or an apartment alone. “Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies that have not established female sections unless they have a male representative” (“Sex Segregation Keeps…”). Due to the almost complete control of men over women, women are subjected to violence and are unable to do anything about it (“Sex Segregation Keeps…”). Sources have said that even if women are abused it is a “near impossibility of removing guardianship even from male guardians who are abusive” (“Sex Segregation Keeps…”).

Some hospitals do not allow women to be admitted unless they have permission from a male guardian (“Sex Segregation Keeps… “). These rules could in turn harm the woman if she is in need of medical care but cannot get the permission of a male guardian for one reason or another. Some reasons which are attributed to the fact that women are not allowed to testify in court are that they will be too emotional, or that they do not participate in public life so they will not give an accurate testimony. Accordingly women still have trouble filing a court case or having any access to justice (“Sex Segregation Keeps…”).

Therefore the voice of women is not heard and they can be abused or mistreated and they are not guaranteed their rights in court. Interpretation and Analysis It is clear that Saudi Arabia is attempting to protect the Islamic society that it has but it is doing so at a very high cost. As seen above women in Saudi Arabia have lived in the shadow of men for many years, even though they have a lot of potential in growing and being a huge asset to the country. The rate of educated women is large, but the women cannot benefit the country with the education that they have because they are forced to be segregated and stay at home.

It is my opinion that the women and groups that are beginning to break these old traditions are helping develop the country and they are allowing women to become more autonomous. There are also many contradictions that appear in Saudi Arabia’s society today. Many of the people who have lived there and who I have spoken to about the topic have stated that women who are living inside a compound are allowed to dress however they choose and they are allowed to drive and move around alone in the compound.

Once outside the compound women are forced to wear the strict Islamic dress and abide by the laws or else the Islamic police will arrest them. This contradiction shows that Saudi Arabia is somewhat heterogeneous in its treatment towards women. It seems that the laws that are being set are not thought of in terms of being better for women or not they are instead thought of in terms of gender separation. Gender separation seems to be the most important factor along with men’s control over women.

I think that it is important for people in Saudi Arabia to adapt to some gender integration in order to allow women more rights and more freedom within the country. I think that no matter how many laws that the government tries to make in order to give women some freedom, they will not be successful unless the society changes its way of thinking. Throughout the years women in Saudi Arabia have been treated in a terrible way and their rights have been taken from them. Many of the women have accepted this way of life and are not doing anything about it.

I think that it should be a priority for women to speak up and demand their rights and show their country that they can be a huge benefit to it. If women sit on the sidelines and accept what happens to them then they will never reach equality or see the changes that they want to see. The women that have taken a step in reforming the country are only a minority. It seems from the articles that I have read that the most important thing to change is the mentality of the people and then everything else will follow.

It is hard to imagine that even today there are still people who are segregated against in such a way that the women in Saudi Arabia are segregated against. I believe that no matter how much push people try to give from outside countries in order to improve the status of women in Saudi Arabia, the change must come from inside first. The women who have faced the government such as the women who have begun to drive outside of their compounds have begun to achieve high status positions are the inspiration for the other women in the country.

Some women still believe that being driven around by drivers and not having the right to drive and other rights such as these is not a problem. They see themselves as living a high style life. It is my view that a high style life would be one she chooses not one that she is forced into. If a woman is forced to follow a ban on driving then it is not luxurious it is inhumane and it should be fought against until she gets her own rights. Another important issue is I believe that women should have the right to choose the way they want to dress.

When dress is forced and women do not make the decision for themselves then it is not really a display of religiosity as much as it is a display of oppression. Islam allows the woman to choose when she is ready to wear the veil and it has to be a decision made by her or else it will not have the same meaning. All of these changes and much more must be made in order for women to improve their lifestyles in Saudi Arabia. Conclusion In conclusion, the recent data that is presented about Saudi Arabian women and their lifestyles shows that they are still being oppressed.

Despite the many people who have attempted to change the laws and speak out there is still a long way to go until Saudi Arabian women attain autonomy and freedom within the country. Saudi Arabia is developed in many sectors, however, it is lacking in the area of women’s development and it is an area which can help the development of other areas. There are still a lot of debates and controversies going on in the country between the people who want the conservative lifestyle to continue and the people who want the women to have their rights and to improve the women’s standards in Saudi Arabia.

The issue and status of women in Saudi Arabia has not only concerned the people living there but it has drawn the attention of many human rights organizations and many westerners. Bibliography Al-Munajjid, Muhammad. “Does the ruling on driving a car vary from one country to another? ” Islam QA. Nov. 21, 2008. . Ambah, Faiza S. “Saudi Women See a Brighter road on Rights”. Washington Post. Jan. 31, 2008. Nov. 22, 2008. . Azuri, L. “Public Debate in Saudi Arabia on Employment Opportunities for Women”. MEMRI. Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 300. Nov. 17, 2006. Nov. 21, 2008. . Bradley, Ed. Women Speak Out in Saudi Arabia”. 60 Minutes. March 24, 2005. Nov. 22, 2008. < http://www. cbsnews. com/stories/2005/03/23/60minutes/main682565. shtml>. Martin, Susan T. “Hanging out at the Mall Saudi Style”. St. Petersburg Times. July 24, 2002. Nov. 22, 2008. . Saleh, Heba. “First Woman on Saudi Bank Board”. BBC News. December 2, 2004. Nov. 21, 2008. < http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/business/4063723. stm>. “Sex-Segragated Sidewalks and Women’s Car Driving”. Sabah’s Blog. Sept. 16, 2007. Nov. 22, 2008. . “Saudi Cleric Favours One-Eye Veil”. BBC News. Oct. 3, 2008. Nov. 21, 2008. lt; http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/middle_east/7651231. stm>. “Saudi Woman Takes the Wheel”. BBC News. July 12, 2005. Nov. 21, 2008. . “Saudi Women Barred from Voting”. BBC News. Oct. 11, 2004. Nov. 22, 2008. . “Saudi Women Make Video Protest”. BBC News. March 11, 2008. Nov. 21, 2008. < http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/middle_east/7159077. stm>. “Sex Segregation Keeps Women Out of Public Life in Saudi Arabia”. Womensphere. April 25, 2008. Nov. 22, 2008. . “Why Was I Born a Girl? ”. Women in Saudi Arabia. World Press. Nov. 21, 2008. < http://www. worldpress. org/Europe/1730. cfm>.

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