Hurrah! Rights advocates are hailing the Saudi government’s latest generosity by announcing that women will be given the right to vote in the 2015 elections. That is a breakthrough, indeed.
Not long ago, enrollment for women in facilities of higher education was opened, limiting their courses of study, mostly, to nursing and teaching. In recent years, that has opened up somewhat to include pharmacy. About 93 percent of all female graduates were in the field of education and social science. While women make up 70 percent of university enrollments, they only represent 5 percent of the work force.
Well, that’s all progress. Of course, we must also understand that it’s a tough road for women in the strict Islamic country because they have many other hurdles to cross in order to attend school and vote.
We think of voting as a free-speech / free-expression entity we take for granted in the western world. But Saudi Arabia is another planet. It is where women are basically slaves and the mind-set is ingrained from birth that they must follow the rules, examples, teachings and orders imposed on them by their superiors – MEN – that require obedience. I opine, that if a husband or father casts a ballot for a candidate in 2015, he is casting two ballots, because his slave woman’s vote will automatically follow suit, as required, just as she has been brainwashed.
Saudi Arabia adheres to the strictest interpretations of Wahabbi Islam. It is the antithesis of a free society. There are no churches, no synagogues, no freedom of any religion other than Islam. If anyone is seen carrying a Bible, he/she can be jailed. The media is tightly controlled by the government.
While the Saudi government is doing their best to show the world that they are not oppressive toward women and are advocates of human rights, the public should be aware of the many other traditions, rules and laws that apply to women in Saudi Arabia that are not being modernized.
1) Regardless of age, women are required to have a male guardian. A woman can basically do nothing unless given permission by a husband, father, brother.
2) They are prohibited from driving a vehicle
3) They may not hold political office
4) Must adhere to gender segregation. Public buildings, including mosques, have separate entrances for men and women. Even some private homes require separate entrances by gender. Men and women pray separately. Public transportation is segregated.
5) Must remain fully covered in public by use of an abaya, which leaves only a slit affording vision.
6) Must not touch an unrelated male or look another male into the eyes, unless it is a husband, father, brother, son.
7) Must publically dine in women-only or segregated restaurants because eating requires the part removal of the veil.
8) No sporting activity. Saudi Arabia participates in the Olympics, without a female delegation.
9) Marriages are arranged. A young woman/girl has no choices is selecting a life partner.
10) An accusation of rape requires four male witnesses to substantiate. If the accusation fails, the women may be stoned to death for adultery.
11) A girl may be married off by a father as young as 9.
12) A man who wants a divorce, and who may have four wives, needs only to declare, “I divorce you,” three times, and the divorce is final. A woman must bring charges such as adultery, and be prepared to suffer consequences if her legal suit fails.
13) Parental authority over children is automatically granted to the father. In a divorce, the child may stay with the mother until the age of 7, at which time the father assumes full custody.
14) A woman may be beaten by her husband, if she disobeys.
15) A woman who leaves Islam, is considered an apostate and may be killed. (The same applies to men, although men living outside Saudi Arabia have been bolder in their conversions.)
16) Inheritance laws give half (or less) to women, than men.
That’s a sampling.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia (complete with it’s wealth of petro-dollars) laughingly remains as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Is it any wonder that free and educated people of the world have little respect for that world body? To empower the Saudi government any judgement over human rights in other nations, is like giving the KKK legitimacy for improving race relations.
Carmen bin Laden, a sister-in-law to Osama, wrote a book about life for Saudi women titled, “Inside the Kingdom.” It’s worth a read.
Female activist, Wajeha Al-Huwaider said that Saudi men may be caring, but “it’s the same kind of feeling they have for handicapped people or for animals. The kindness comes from pity, from lack of respect.” She compares make guardianship to slavery. “The ownership of a woman is passed from one man to another…from father, or brother or to a husband. The woman is merely a piece of merchandise which is passed over to someone else.”
So, while I am happy for a smidgen of progress for women in that slave country, I seriously doubt that daily life will change much for the female gender in Saudi Arabia, who had the misfortune to be born — not of their choice — in world where superiority depends on what gender you are and those who are inherently born inferior are valued much like a camel.
Some folks may think that Israeli building of settlements is wrong. That they should return to their 1967 borders. That being bombed daily by enemies on the other side of the border is not even worthy of mention.
But the value of human life in Saudi Arabia continues in it’s barbaric ways as the world turns a blind eye, bowing to wealth and influence, without any demands that it’s time they join the 21st century.