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The issues of gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia seriously need to be alert to every woman out there. Public need to understand how vulnerable these Saudi Arabia women been living throughout their whole life and the misery they went through. There is no freedom for them. This happens because of the extremely conservation of religious culture. They are not just being retracted by the Islam law, also by the social norms and tradition.
SECTION II – THE ISSUES AND WHO ARE INVOVLED
I have chosen to focus on prejudice and discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia and comparing it with Singapore. The reason why I have chosen this is because I realized in Saudi Arabia, women have a pitiful life. They have been categorized by men for over many decades. Men are being more prioritized over women in their country in terms of gender, education, society which I will be covering in this topic. There is no freedom of speech. Their life is being controlled by men. Hence there is a need to bring up this issue to everyone so that the discriminated gender in Saudi Arabia can be reduced and the women’s quality of life can be improved.
Women in Saudi Arabia are normally seen wearing dull colours veil, head covering and a full black cloak. They must cover the parts of their body except the eyes. The clothing must be thick and loose-fitting which will not interest male. The reason of dressing so is because no seduction is allowed to men.
According to Saudi culture, “women’s employment place is at home whereas man’s is at the workplace.” Women are not allowed to neglect their responsibilities of house chores.
A new report released by Human Right Watch (HRW), it state that “Requirements that each female, regardless of age, be assigned a male guardian – be it a father, a husband, or even a son – who must give permission for their charges to do everything from travel abroad or locally to study, seek medical care, work and marry effectively deprives women of their most basic rights and makes their participation in public life far more difficult.” (Jim Lobe, 2008 Apr 21) Also in the same article, “One 40-year-old Saudi woman, who was divorced from her husband and whose father had died, who had to seek permission from her 23-year-old son to travel outside the kingdom” (Jim Lobe, 2008, Apr 21) This is an extremely absurd information for any Singaporean women to believe if this act was to be implemented in Singapore. In normal situation in Singapore, it is usually the children be it of gender have to seek permission from parents to leave a country. However in Saudi Arabia, they are being based on gender where men have all the authority over women. And in most cases, women are needed to be accompanied by a man on streets.
It is extremely common to see women driving on the road in Singapore. Unlike Saudi Arabia, women are allowed to own a car but they are not given the rights to drive. “Women can still own cars in Saudi Arabia, but they are banned from driving them.” (Associated Press, July 5 2010) They are the only county that does not allow women to drive. In addition to such extend, Saudi Arabia women actually threaten to breastfeed their male colleagues or men that they often come in contact with. The reason why they will do so is because they think that by breastfeeding the men, it will create a symbolic maternal relation. Within the same article, it also stated that “if the women give their drivers their breast milk, the chauffeurs would be able to mingle with all members of the family without having to worry about violating Islamic law.” In both scenarios, women are at disadvantage because despite of breastfeeding those strangers, they are still not allowed to drive. But if they do so, it also means giving the chance for those strangers to associate with their family members without fears breaking the Islamic law.
SECTION III – WHY IS IT IMPORTENT FOR US TO TALK ABOUT IT?
Women are often being seen as more inferior as compared to men in Saudi Arabia, especially where the lack of education further verifies this. Majority of the women are not allowed to attend school just because of gender. It affects the society as it does not give a good impression to other countries.
Women in Saudi Arabia do not have any say in almost everything even basic human rights like receiving medical care or working. As stated in the first example, they must seek permission from their male guardian before doing so. They are also being forbidden from participating in political issues such as election.
Giving men the authority over women could means a higher danger for them. An article stated that “The power given to male guardians actually contributes to women’s risk of abuse and family violence, according to the report. Even when guardians are found to be abusive against their charges, social workers, doctors, and lawyers who work on such cases told HRW that it was almost impossible for their guardianship to be dissolved or transferred.” (Jim Lobe, 2008 Apr 21) As women are considered the substandard ones in the society, majority of them are not literate. The only jobs that are suitable for them are those that do not required any skills as such being a domestic worker. In the same article, it also added that “Many migrant domestic workers, mostly women, were kept in highly abusive conditions, being made to work up to 18 hours every day, in some cases for little or no pay. Domestic workers have no protection under Saudi Arabian labour law and have little possibility in practice of obtaining redress against abusive or exploitative employers. The government said that a law against domestic violence was being drafted.” (Amnesty International, 2009) In most situations, women can only bear with all the misery and feel so helpless regarding it.
The rate of discrimination in Saudi Arabia is extremely high and need to be brought up to everyone. Women are not given a fair chance when it comes to employment. ‘Women remained subordinate to men under family law, were denied equal employment opportunities with men, remained banned from driving vehicles or travelling alone’ (Amnesty International, 2009)
Women tried to protest against the discrimination act that men put on them, however the way they protest has limited effect. Such as the incident of being banned from driving, women protest it by threatening to breastfeed the men. This behavior will never happen in Singapore because it is never practiced in here. One woman who was being interview by the Gulf News said “Is this all that is left to us to do: to give our breasts to the foreign drivers?” She commented this because she understand even such threaten will only put women at disadvantage.
SECTION IV – WHERE CAN WE START TO FIX PROBLEM?
I believe equal rights exist for everyone regardless of age, gender.
This inequality treatment women received is the society is causing women to protest.
Although the International committee such as United Nation (UN) has already stepped into Saudi Arabia to help those women, nevertheless there is still much limitation they can do. “There isn’t much that can be done by outsiders as it’s my belief that sustainable change is only change that happens from within.” (Eman Fahad Al Nafjan, 2010, September 9)
In 2001, the UN has a Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Its purpose was to ask Saudi Arabia to take action to end discrimination against women in all forms. The convention oblige Saudi Arabia “to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women,” including “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” (Human Rights Watch, 2009 July 8) However, this convection has little effect.
“The Saudi government sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women. Saudi women won’t make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies.” (Jim Lobe, 2008 Apr 21) To end the misery of women, firstly the government have to start their part. The Islam law is the biggest factor causing the restrictions for women in the country. Men should stop being chauvinistic and mentality that they are superior, where women should be stay home, this mindset needs to be highlighted.
Various actions done by the Amnesty International USA of helping these vulnerable women in Saudi Arabia was to create awareness to people all over the world about how are they being treated. They even urge readers to send in appeals to the Head of Election Committee and the Ministry of Interior to help these women. “Write to the Head of the Election Committee and the Minister of Interior, calling for women in Saudi Arabia to be given their basic fundamental right to universal suffrage without delay.” (Amnesty International USA, 2004 November)
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