Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia from 622 - 2013
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah recently made history with a royal decree, declaring a new era in politics and in social culture.
The Monarch appoints 150 Majlis al Shura Council members as his advisors in areas such as education, health, Islamic affairs, economy and finance. King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the council. Appointed women are influential, two are royal princesses. The Monarch also granted women the right to vote in local elections in 2015; although they cannot vote for high offices or hold elected office.
Angry Wahhabi clerics protested outside the Royal court in Riyadh. They posted insults on Twitter such as "the filth of society" and "prostitutes", to describe these female academics and technocrats.
Saudi Arabia is home to Islam's two holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina. Muhammad was born in Mecca. The King is descended from him. Saudi is the largest country on the Saudi Peninsula, which jets into the Arabian and Red Seas, and the Persian Gulf. It borders Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Yemen, and Qatar.
Since King Abdulaziz Al-Saud unified most of the Arab Peninsula and established the modern Kingdom of Saudi in 1932, it has transformed into a major player on the international stage with a developed economy. It plays a leading role in OPEC. Riyadh is a modern city.
Saudi society remains ruled by Islamic tradition and tribal rule. Sexual segregation, keeps wives, sisters and daughters from contact with men. Social events maintain the separation. Most Saudi homes have one entrance for women, another for men.
A girl born in Saudi Arabia is required to have a male guardian. Ownership of a female is passed from the father or the brother to another man, the husband, who becomes the new guardian.
Family honor requires the male guardian to protect females under his care. He controls her behavior, her modesty and her respectability. Females deemed to dishonor their guardian are subject to honor killing.
Al Arabiya television airs programs on the correct ways for a man to discipline and to beat his wife, complete with the size of sticks that should and should not be used, advice on the occasions of when it is appropriate or not appropriate to beat her; parts of the body that should not be struck, and more.
Proper dress, which means covering parts of the body not meant to be exposed, is part of family honor. In some Arab countries, a women's face may be exposed. However in much of Saudi Arabia only the hands and the eyes may be exposed. Women wear the hijab head covering and an abaya full cloak and a face veil.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. Permission from their guardian is needed to work. Permission and a male relative escort are needed to travel. Women are allowed to be educated. Saudi Arabia boasts Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University, the worlds largest all female university. 60% of graduates from Saudi universities are women, however only 17% join the job market.
Another of the controversial reforms introduced by the King is that lingerie shops, jewelry shops and shops selling abayas are now allowed to be staffed by women.
Nathalie Morin is a French Canadian living is Saudi for 8 years. She wrote in English on an Internet Twitter that she was in financial distress, her husband was abusing her, there was no food, no drinkable water, and she was imprisoned in the home. She wrote about her children being hungry and asked for help from the Canadian Government.
Two Saudi women's rights activists Wajeha Al-Huweidar and Fawzia Alj-Uyouni were arrested while attempted to bring food and water to Morin. Each has been convicted of inciting a wife against her husband, and trying to kidnap Morin and her children and take them to the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh. Each were sentenced to 10 months in prison. Detractors of the government say the women were imprisoned on trumped up charges because they fight for the right of women to drive, and they want the Guardian Rules changed.
King Abdullah has taken steps to promote the cause of women, and several female members of the Shura Council voice their concerns relating to family, under aged marriage, women's status, the right to drive, and women's unemployment. These outstanding women want to send a message that Islam is not an obstacle to the participation of Muslim women in all parts of life.
If history is a measure, Saudi women will be not driving or guardian free for many years.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
You've Come a Long Way Baby! Let's Look At Muslim Women's Rights In Saudi Arabia Since 622 AD
Family Security Matters.