Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Position of Women in Saudi Arabia.

How Enslaved Are Saudi Arabia?

This is  an extract from the  Shadow Report for CEDAW prepared by 'Saudi Women for Reform' Saudi Arabia in December 2007. 

I was originally sent a copy of this report  by a Saudi dissident  who managed to get out of the country  to pursue post-graduate study, but was reported to the Saudi Authorities for her Atheism.  She'd been reported by her own family, the Saudi Government removed her funding and  she ended up having to seek asylum.  

A copy of the final  Official report is available  at  it gives a more diplomatic assessment and couches cruelty in  more polite terms that the victims do. However  even reading that you could be in no doubt of the position of Saudi women. Here I have highlighted key points that can leave no one in any doubt as to how enslaved Saudi Women. 

What follows is not my writing but the report.  While since it was written women have been given limited voting rights in local elections the position of women  has not changed in any meaningful way.

The Shadow Report for CEDAW
Prepared by 'Saudi Women for Reform'
Saudi Arabia
The Executive Summary
December 2007

This shadow report tries to balance the official report submitted by the Saudi Arabian (SA) government, which was prepared confidentially. The shadow report is also prepared secretly mainly for security reasons. The women working on this report are a group of women concerned with public issues and active in women's rights. They don't belong to any official umbrella and work independently. They call themselves 'Women for Reform'. Therefore, if there are any flaws in this report it is because it is not the work of an institution. Working under an NGO was not possible since this type of institutions is not available in SA.
The reservations of SA on the CEDAW are mainly about 'all what controvert Islamic law', i.e. that SA will follow just what conforms to Islamic laws. This concept is very obscure and inaccurate, which was, thankfully, commented on by the CEDAW committee to the government. It is important to note that Islam incorporates many schools of thought that adopt different stands according to their interpretation of the sacred text in regard to women and other social issues. In Saudi Arabia there are citizens who adhere to the four Sunni schools: Maliki, Shafei, Hanafi and Hanbali, as well as the Shii schools and Ismaelis, in addition to many Sufi orders. But officially, SA adopts the Hanbali School only as the state's jurisprudence, and acknowledges the remaining schools but not their interpretations of texts.
What is important for women is to accept and acknowledge the differences in religious interpretations, a method that could facilitate the implementation of the CEDAW articles. Some of these controversial issues affect women's empowerment and participation in public life, such as the face cover and mixing with the other sex.
The principle that is ruling in SA is imposing the guardianship of a male over the woman all her life. Guardianship is linked to the inferior look to women and her traditional role in society and family. It belongs also to parts of our cultural heritage, traditions and customs practiced in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to the first report of the Saudi 'National Society for Human Rights': 'The denial for an adult woman to act on her behalf, in some times, except through a guardian or an agent, is harming her a lot, and is deepening the inferior look to women and to their legal and constitutional capacity. That harm extends to her right to file a law-suit. Her education, work, public activity and movement they are all relying on her male guardian or mahram (a relative who is not allowed to marry her such as a father, brother, son, uncle, nephew, grandfather, or father-in-law) regardless of his age, education and regardless of her age or qualifications'.
Linked to the issue of 'the guardian' many laws are breached and the Saudi woman is exposed to exploitation, blackmailing, plagiarism, violence, preventing her from getting married, and more, in addition to the humiliations a woman feels when demanding a male mahram to consent to her vital needs in order for the state to recognize them. This relationship holds many contradictions which will be clarified in details in the full report and briefly below:
Article 2
In answering the query about how far in practice there was an implementation of equality between men and women, it is sufficient to say that the status quo is a continuous discrimination against women practiced not only by society but by the whole government's institutions and employees. There is no sign of an attempt to stop that, prevent it or punish the perpetrators. According to our knowledge, there is no legal text that punishes a person who discriminates against women. Discrimination is part of the general system, regulations and some explanatory legal circulations.
There are absolute NOT Do's for women, and there are other NOT Do's except with a mahram that could clarify the general situation. Here are some examples only:

1. Absolute prohibitions:

• Not allowed in all the government's departments including the administration of women's education, and public institutions such as the Department of Social Insurance. Accordingly women's access to recourses is limited and some times denied the right, or abused by men who provide such services.

• Not allowed to issue an official document that combines the mother's identity information with her children's.

• Not allowed to drive a car.

• Not allowed into many shops and public service stores such as video shops, music shops, children's barber shops, travel agencies, or foreign labor recruitment offices (such as drivers).

• Not allowed to ride any game while accompanying a child in a public place such as a Mall.

• Not allowed to ride any boats in public parks.

• Not allowed to use gym rooms in hotels nor having designated hours.

• Not allowed into any sport clubs (all male), sport halls, or attend sport games.
2. Prohibited except with a Mahram or guardian:

• Not allowed to schools, universities, postgraduate studies except with permission from a guardian.

• Not allowed to travel abroad except with a guardian's permission. If a woman does not have a guardian: a father or a husband or brother, then her SON will be her guardian.

• Not allowed to work except with a guardian's permission.

• Not allowed to take a car that she owns out of the country unless she has a permission of the minister of interior or the governor.


• Not allowed into restaurants or caf├ęs except with a mahram.

• Not allowed to stay in hotels or furnished flats without a mahram.

• Religious discrimination occurs in the two Holy Mosques. In Makkah's Holy Mosque women's share of the main space surrounding the Kaaba, which is the holiest place, is about one seventh of the inner circle of the mosque (the circumambulation area), the remaining area is open to men's prayers only.

• In Madina's Holy Mosque, women are not allowed to reach the Rawdah al Sharifah (the holiest part of the mosque) except for a small part of it, a few hours a day, whereas it is open for men the whole time and the remaining area of the Rawdah.

• Not allowed to have an operation without the consent of a guardian, especially when it is a gynaecological operation.

• Not allowed to enter a hospital for delivery except with a guardian's approval, nor she can be discharged from hospital or prison without a male guardian's signature.

• Not allowed to register her baby's birth notification. Who can register it is only the father, or a male relative over 17 years old.

• According to the regulations of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), a woman is not allowed to open a bank account in the name of her son or daughter except with the father's consent, nor is she allowed to carry any transactions on her child's behalf even if it is she who is depositing money in it.