Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Women's Rights Movement in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, we do not have any large private organized women's groups or generous sums of private money contributed to causes promoting or protecting women's interests. It is not because the concept is illegal or frowned upon, I believe that it would be a welcome concept within the country. As a matter of fact, I feel that the men within the country are much more supportive of women's rights and the cause than our own gender. However, these men will not win our battles for us.

As I noted above, the initiative has not been taken by the women themselves to promote this idea or suffer through any cause. Civil rights movements have generally throughout history been grass roots movements in which the majority of people are affected by a certain cause, organize themselves and by some means are able to voice their struggles. By working through the difficulties and paving the way for others while correcting ill conceived perceptions of those dominant in power, progress is made for a unified cause.

Locally, within the country I do not see this happening. Women are slowly gaining employment by encouragement from the government, though the cultural norms and social norms are still dominating. Due to the high rates of unemployment and out of sheer necessity, many families are accepting their daughters working (around males) though it is still a relatively new concept for the majority of people. These are the lower classes.

The upper classes do not face financial difficulties, nor do the women (with the exception of the minority) take initiatives to handle their own inheritances/businesses and allow brothers or dominant husbands to control their share of the wealth. Of course, their lives are comfortable and there is no need at this point. Again, the cultural norms, are dictating this behavior.

The middle classes are in between. The women are currently comfortable enough, depend on a male relative for all their needs and have little to no responsibilities in life. A house maid cares for the children, a driver drives them to school and they do not have the large funds required to travel or have any type of assets/financial interests to look after. These are the majority within the country, and yet they are comfortable enough with their lives to stay silent, yet not comfortable enough to achieve fulfillment in terms of contributing to society. A catch 22 indeed! I do not know when the "limbo" will be tipped over, perhaps with the decline in the economy, men may become tired of being the sole person responsible for the entire household and hope for a more supportive spouse.

Then there are the daughters of executives within Saudi Companies who obtain positions within companies and appear to be a model for middle class Saudi women to emulate. Unfortunately, their behavior is not replicated easily, nor are they role models as their "jobs" were attained through corruption and special favors. The average Saudi woman can not use these women as mentors, as to obtain these "jobs" through standard channels is a great struggle, So these handful of women have done nothing to pave the way for future generations, and are happy just receiving their paychecks. Though these women are few in number, their hypocrisy is particularly damaging as they are presented as advocates of women's rights and shroud the true Saudi woman's struggle. You will find these women in newspaper articles being paraded about what a typical Saudi woman is able to accomplish with hard work and a keen mind. However, when the Saudi women struggle and do not attain what these "daughters" have attained, they become discouraged and resentful without understanding the key concepts of the rampant discrimination that is still heavily prevalent within the society.

In light of all the social intricacies within the society, I am sure that it is poverty alone and the struggles of the lower classes that will bring Women's Rights to the country. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.....


  1. Not sure that poverty alone will bring women's rights, if at all, considering the enormous number of poor countries where the plight of women is tremendous.
    It does work the other way though, when poverty strikes, women suffer the first and the hardest.
    Also, when you have to struggle for survival, thinking about whether you're treated fairly based on your sex is not the first thing you think about.
    I think what helps is education, and people like you speaking out about it.

  2. Rural women are also hugely discriminated against in Pakistan, a situation exacerbated in the Frontier area by the pseudo- religious concept of the burqah.

    The situation for such poor, illiterate women will never improve without an insistent voice from the educated classes, and intensive literacy programmes.

    But they will still have the massive hurdle of male opposition, similar to that in Saudi Arabia.

  3. You know how it is said that women are a 'fitna'? I think that it is more likely that the intended meaning is that women are a trial for the nation. And by not giving them their rights, by putting traditions above what is right, Muslims are will fail this test.

  4. I think Sarah has hit the nail on the head.

  5. Since reading the 'Princess' trilogy by Jean Sasson I have had my eyes opened to the appalling contempt that women are held in. It appears to me that men in the Islamic world have bought the rights to own women by selling their daughters. Of course the total obediance women and absolute rule of men can only lead to contempt. The elevation of womens rights are simply viewed as the means to diminish male dominance. Male dominance leads to contempt and contempt leads to abuse. What needs to happen is to ensure the exposure, ridicule and total condemnation of every evil deed that is perpetrated wherever it is perpetrated. Start pricking the consciences of men with the facts and then ask the question...what is good and what is evil.

  6. So far there has been nothing done to challenge the widespread abuses women suffer in Islam. We need to wake entire populations up and make them aware that 'Passive acceptance' should be replaced by 'Passive resistance' The people who oppose this should be publically named, shamed and exposed as ambassadors of evil. With organisations worldwide on board and the very public support for such actions that are necassary the men who speak out to preserve the Status Quo as is should then be placed on the United Nations most wanted list and warrants for their arrest and ultimate trials should be issued by the United Nations. Governments should demand the trial and imprisonment of anyone who stands in the way of women achieving equal rights to men. Just as Nazism was proved to be wholly evil so will the doctrine of such men who regard women as inferior. As soon as it is humanly possible every human being should swear an oath that they understand the basic truth... 'There is no superior Race and the is no Superior Sex. Freedom of thought and movement is a right held from birth by all human beings'