Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Challenges Facing Saudi Women :: Arab News

According to social scientists, the reasons why the abuses and violations have gone unchecked are the inefficiency of our Shariah courts, the absence of law enforcement mechanisms and the unwillingness of society at large to admit and deal with the problem.
. . .
Discrimination against women continues to be a major problem that Saudi society needs to confront and deal with. Though women constitute more than 50 percent of the population, their potential is far from being fully realized. They continue to struggle to attain the rights of equality and justice which Shariah law guarantees them.

Experts say that the best way to increase awareness of rights among Saudi women is to begin educating them at a very early age — in elementary schools, for example. Girls are taught home economics but are not taught any subjects that would empower them or teach them to become independent voices, demanding their God-given rights as men’s equal partners.

The real challenge facing society today is the need to reveal the violations committed against women in the name of Islam; they must be made aware that they do have a choice, that they do not have to accept in silence a life of abuse. We need to change the attitudes of men who view women as “inferior in intelligence and religious thinking.” Religious scholars and educators must speak out against men who manipulate women for their own selfish ends. The media also has its role and must expose the self-styled “pious” men who advocate the marginalization of women, who claim that men are superior and thus, that men must dictate how women should live.

Recent studies have shown that many women suffer abuse within their families and are desperate for a better life but find no justice in Shariah courts and have no place to turn to for help or assistance. Many endure unspeakable hardships due to poverty and neglect while the self-appointed guardians of morality allege that Islam forbids a woman from seeking work or driving herself to a safe place in order to escape an abusive man.

In spite of being educated, there are some people in our society who adamantly oppose change and insist on following traditions that have no basis at all in Islam. These people interpret Islam in the most unyielding, intolerant and narrow way; as a result, they vehemently oppose the empowerment of women. They believe that women must be kept under the control of male guardians, regardless of those males’ manipulative characters or domineering tendencies. The time has come when we must rescue women from being at the mercy of a male guardian who may be violent, inhumane and untrustworthy.
. . .
— Samar Fatany is a radio journalist. She is based in Jeddah.
Read the whole thing.

Related: Women driving not a priority: Prince Naif.

He said he was surprised the matter had been raised in the Shoura Council. Referring to the council member who brought the issue up, the prince said: “Does he understand what the priorities are? We consider this issue to be a secondary issue, not a priority. These matters are decided by taking into consideration the public interest and what is dictated by a woman’s honor.
. . .
The interior minister also pointed out that opponents of the public interest were using the controversy to promote women driving as a viewpoint of society. He said women are held in high esteem in the Saudi society. “This is a public issue and must be tackled considering woman’s interests and their situations. Women are dear to us and they have a prominent position. Nobody should doubt that. Our men sacrifice their lives to protect women’s honor,” he added.

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