Saudi Arabia and Women Rights

May 16, 2017

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Poor women’s rights are associated with Saudi Arabia. It remains a big question mark how the government will create a change – despite its so many tiny efforts.

If you were a Saudi woman, like me, I am not sure how you would feel about all the recent talk about more rights for women. Not to forget the ongoing difficult status of women in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, I don’t know. It is a roller coaster of emotions that takes me from despair to ecstatic excitement on being a Saudi woman. Though, as said, it is never a set feeling or reaction.

Earlier this week, King Salman announced that the government would review rules on guardianship, and maybe loosen them. In 3 months, the government – not clear if it’s the Shura Council or the Council of Ministers – will make their recommendations on the how and which one of the laws will be changed or removed. The first step was that a few (tiny) points from that list have been removed – following up on paperwork in government agencies.

For those who don’t understand it, “Guardianship laws” means for Saudi women that they require permission from a man — a father, uncle, brother or husband, or even a young son — for basic activities such as renting an apartment or filing a legal claim.

Interesting is the timing of this review. Saudi Arabia is publicly trying to reshape and liberalize its economy, for reasons I have written about before. One of the many changes suggested is increasing women’s participation in the workforce beyond the current 13 percent. That would be a huge economic engine.

Fact is that Saudi women have been increasingly given leadership positions in public and private sectors. It appeared impossible only 10 years ago – appointed to significant leading positions among the members of municipal councils, Shura, directors of financial institutions, a dean of a university, etc.

According to the World Bank, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most gender-segregated places. The tough reality is that even if suggested changes are implemented, women would still be living under serious restrictions. They would still be required to receive permission from a man to travel abroad, get a passport, or get married.

In addition to the above, there is an unstated imperative: to improve the image of Saudi Arabia internationally – for better economic integration and foreign investment. This process is reflected in the theory of neopatriarchy, in which the patriarchal structures and gender relations of traditional Arab societies will continue to be enforced in modern lifestyles.

Critics say that the timing of the announcement came just before Trump’s visit. “The Saudi government says what the international community wants to hear at the moment of a UN review or a summit with the US president,” says Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch. “Then the world stops watching, and the review never goes anywhere.”

Fact is that the announcement comes after years of activism by many Saudi women illustrating human rights abuses resulting from guardianship laws. Last year, 15,000 Saudi women from different strata of the society signed a petition requesting abolishing the guardianship system completely. Among the many Hashtags were #TogetherEndGuardianship and #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen.

This discussion can go on endlessly searching for the whys, because and all that is behind such a step. Most important is what is the reason behind establishing guardianship in Islam? The origin of guardianship in Islam is protection and care. So how was it translated into the control that allowed power? Or actually creating the translation to allow the goal to happen.

At the time, such orders came the out lifestyles of Muslims were different, the status of women was practiced correctly, as it is given by God and interpretations of Quran and Sunnah were referred to their roots, not to egos.

Guardianship means care and protection of females. Helping them to live an honorable and graceful protected style, away from worries that take them off their duties or do not fit their abilities, based on their choices. Women at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) were warriors, businesswomen (Prophet’s wife), head of bazars equalling finance ministers our days. Their voices were equally heard for electing the Prophet (PBUH) as the sole Muslim leader. Why was this overran?

Control entered the game, in the name of so much and so many un-Islamic causes. In Islam, interpretations can be made. Yet a true believing Muslim understands the religion because rules are quite clear. People choose power over religion to give them the power to rule exercise their egos.

Rules in Saudi Arabia for women are taken from the Quran and interpreted by Power and Ego System. Any damages are not Islam’s fault.

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