I have already written a few articles about Saudi Arabia, and today I am sharing with you the first anti-domestic violence ad ever in this country governed by Sharia Law. It is a real important step forward for the protection of women in Saudi Arabia. Let’s hope that it is only a start.
The Kingdom of Saudia Arabia has launched its first campaign against violence towards women. A simple advertisement : a woman wearing the hijab, we only see her eyes, one is blackened and bloody. The slogan is direct: “Some things can’t be covered – fighting women’s abuse together.”
Backed by the King Khalid Charitable Foundation, he explains on his website that ” The phenomenon of battered women in Saudi Arabia is much greater than is apparent on the surface. It is a phenomenon found in the dark. We want to achieve justice for all women and children exposed to abuse in all parts of the Kingdom.” This first advert must encourage first of all Saudis to report cases of violences in Saudi Arabia.
It’s a real progress in a country where women are almost non-existent as they cannot do anything without the permission of a male relative because of Sharia law.
“The King Khalid Foundation is also working on further projects to reduce victimisation, effectively dealing with violence and abuse in order to provide further legal protection for women and children. Last Year, the Foundation also held programmes and training for women, which focussed on empowerment, management and active participation in development.” (Source : Blessed Islam)
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report in 2012 ranked Saudi Arabia 131st out of 134 countries for gender equality. So there are still a lot of work to undertake. But we all hope that this campaign will start to smooth the mindset for positive change.
Do you think sport and feminity are incompatible? No, we do not!
That is what Saudi Arabia thinks: women cannot do sport! They are neither allowed to play nor to be spectators in all major stadiums. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans girls from doing sport! However Saudi Arabia for the time in the Olympic Games History decided to send two women athletes to the London Games: Sarah Attar (800m race) and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Sharkhani (judo, 78kg +).
We know that the situation for women in Saudi Arabia is not easy (Beauty in Saudi Arabia). They are not allowed to pursue higher education or leave the country without the approval of their father, husband, or brother…Therefore, when we hear that physical education is banned for girls in Saudi Arabia despite of the many official sports clubs, we could never imagine that Saudi government will allow women to participate at an international sporting event! In fact, “the International Olympic Committee has turned the tables by stipulating that Saudi men can only participate if accompanied by Saudi women” (Source: The Guardian)
Not many Saudi people have been supporting women participation at the Games! As social activists and national human rights organisations point out, some actions are more important to take such as allowing women to drive, making child brides illegal, giving more work opportunities to women.
Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch’s Director of Global Initiatives said: “It’s an important precedent that will create space for women to get rights, and it will be hard for Saudi hardliners to roll back” (Source: BBC). “That two women will compete for the Saudi team for the first time in the history of the Olympics is a first step. But the race for gender equality in Saudi Arabia cannot be won until the millions of women and girls who are now deprived of athletic opportunities can also exercise their right to practice sports.” (Source: Bikyamasr)
The participation of two Saudi female athletes in the London Games is definitely a huge step towards women’s conditions in Saudi society. However, there is still a lot to do to
After the beginning of the week, International Olympic Committe agreed that Wojdan Shaherkani, the judo fighter could wear a headscarf during her matches: “Shaherkani had signed an agreement with Saudi Olympics officials that she could compete only if she wears “correct and approved” clothing that “sticks to Islamic principles” (Source: CNN). In fact, her father would never let his daughter compete if she could not wear the hijab! Rendez-vous on Friday 3rd to see Shaherkani compete.
What do you agree with the decision of International Olympic Committe allowing Wojdan Shaherkani to compete with the headscarf? Do you think that this is legitimate?
Update – On August 3rd: Saudi Arabia’s judoka strikes blow for women’s rights at Olympics Wojdan Shaherkani has become the first Saudi woman to compete at the Games in London (The Guardian)
A Youtube video of a Saudi woman has been creating a huge buzz on online social media networks: in a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a women is stopped by the religious police for wearing nail polish! Right away, she replied back: “It’s none of your business if I wear nail polish”; “You are not in charge of me” (source: Al Arabiya). At the beginning of the year, the government established new constraints on the religious police banning them to come and harass Saudi women for their attire.
What comes to your mind when you think about women in Saudi Arabia?
No rights? No freedom of speech? No freedom to be who they want to be?
Have you already thought about their taste for fashion and beauty? It might sound a bit odd to think that Saudi women do like clothes, lingerie, and being well dressed. Saudi women are part of the modern world in their own unique ways; they have access to the physical trapping of modernity: mobile phones, TV, fast-food but they still live and hope that one day they will have the guarantee of civil rights for all.
Here is an interesting photo from the photographer Shawn Baldwin representing the juxtaposition of globalization and traditions, and the obvious separation between women and men in Saudi society.
First of all, it is important to understand the situation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: a major player in world affairs and within the Middle East. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy the constitution of which is based on the Sharia Law (Islamic law – Sharia) that regulates the private and public lives of the whole population as the it deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene and social issues. Exposed to globalization, Saudi Arabia is concerned about its future and its place within the business world. This is why Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more involved in the process of globalisation and has emerged as one of the Middle East’s key global leaders with a more open economy. For instance, it is very common to see young Saudi business men in their traditional outfits with the latest trendy mobile phones and high-tech laptops on the terrace of a café. Consequently Riyad, the capital is the amalgam of a very traditional and Bedouin ancestral lifestyle and the rise of a modern world where monumental shopping malls, luxury boutiques and the worldwide fast-food chain McDonals’s are located. In addition, “fifty years ago, Riyadh was a city of mud houses […] Today, the center of the city is wireless and has Starbucks, Saks Fifth Avenue and Baskin-Robbins.” (The (Not So) Eagerly Modern Saudi)
However, even if Saudi Arabia has been opening itself over the last decade, the position of women in Saudi Arabian society is still a complex and frequently misunderstood issue. It is certainly true that from the Western view, the role of women in Saudi Arabia shows sharp cultural differences. In current Saudi society, women have almost no rights (they are not allowed to vote, to drive, to make decisions…) and the government even “continues to treat women as perpetual minors” (Human Rights Watch). The pressure of Islamic extremism is really felt when it comes to the way women have to dress up and the behavior in public and private area that they can or cannot display. The development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has brought opportunities for women in education and employment. In 1960, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia undertook the introduction of a national education program for girls. By the mid-1970s, about half of all Saudi Arabian girls were attending school. Five years later, education was made available to all Saudi girls and it appears, moreover, that women receive an excellent cosmopolitan education. There are now important women physicians, professors, journalists, and business owners. But, it is important to know that it is only a very small percentage of women who have access to these kind of jobs and who are allowed to choose what they want to do themselves. When they express their desires to work, to be allowed to do so, their families have to give their consent. Success is not possible “without a father and husband who have supported her every step of the way” (Saudi women workers). Regarding private life and more precisely marriage, Saudi women are almost never allowed to select for themselves their husbands. Further, at home, women totally depend on their husbands and always need their agreement when they want to do something (going out with friends, shopping…).However, it appears that women in Riyadh can have access to a shopping center for women a few times a week where women are not only the consumers but also the sales clerks. In this very different mall, women can watch TV, can look at magazines, can try on clothes in fitting rooms and even take off their abaya (long black dress). In addition to their taste for fashion, they enjoy wearing lingerie, as they explain, the husbands want them to be sexy and attractive in their private life inside the house. Therefore it is extremely embarrassing for Saudi women when they have to deal with the man working the lingerie shop to talk about the size or the colour of their underwear. Consequently, females in Saudi Arabia require lingerie departments to hire women staff to avoid gender-mixing. (Saudi Women Call for Female-Only Staff in Hospitals and Women Stores)
Here is a very good documentary presenting a typical day into the life of a Muslim wife in Saudi Arabia. Basically, according to the lady in this video below, Saudi women are happy about who they are, what they do regarding Islam religion, Saudi women are very fashionable and love to dress up.
“Saudi Arabia does not like dramatic change (…) so society needs to be prepared and ready before women are allowed to drive?” explains that woman in the documentary above. For a country that is proud of its advance within globalization with respect to its traditions and its religion, is it not finally time to give women their rights and a real identity out of her family?
Articles related to Saudi Arabia:
- Manal al-Sharif arrested after defying driving ban in Saudi Arabia
- First time ever at the Olympic Games: Two women competing under the Saudi flag!