Saudi women fight abuse

Khaled Almaeena wrote this interesting article in the Saudi gazette:

The “Himaya” organization, which was established to protect abused women, recently held a course for 20 women on how to package gifts and accessories. The women who ranged from 20 to 45 years of age and came from different backgrounds underwent a four-day training course.
Himaya, which caters to over 50 families, is prominent for focusing on abuse, protecting the victims and helping them through rehab programs.
This type of news would not have been published a decade or two ago. It was taboo to focus on such issues, and, if you did, there would be heavy criticism from the “paragons of virtue”.

“No, our society is not like that of the West!” a man claimed after hearing about the plight of women suffering at the hands of their monstrous husbands. In those days, at every level there was denial of any wrongdoing. However, women could not take it any longer. They enlisted the help of their own gender in the media who brought to light horrific cases of the abuse of women and children. This news spread throughout the media, and talk shows across the Gulf focused on the issue.
People asked for legislation to safeguard the rights of women, provide them with security and safety and help them carry on with their lives.

It is difficult to protect women’s rights in society where the rulers, the culture, the police and the religious clergy are all firmly against women’s rights. For example, a few years ago a judge ruled that it is ok for men to slap their wives if they spend too much:

Arab News, a Saudi English-language daily newspaper based in Riyadh, reported that Judge Hamad Al-Razine said that “if a person gives SR 1,200 [$320] to his wife and she spends 900 riyals [$240] to purchase an abaya [the black cover that women in Saudi Arabia must wear] from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment.”

 When you do a google search a lot of shocking reports turn up, though, with the secrecy, and lack of information one cannot but wonder if they are correct.

As many as 95 percent of women in Riyadh have been subjected to a form of physical or emotional abuse from within their family, according to a new survey.

The survey – which constituted of 80 women being interviewed about their family life – revealed that 75 percent have been abused both psychologically and verbally.
Another 25 percent said they had been sexually abused by a family member, reported the Saudi Gazette.
Several of the women, according to an Al-Riyadh report, said their salaries were withheld from them by their families and they were prevented from getting married. Some said their families did not want them to get married so they would not have to share their salaries with anyone else but the family, the paper said.

This is what the Human Rights Watch Report 2012 has to say about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia responded with unflinching repression to demands by citizens for greater democracy in the wake of the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements. King Abdullah bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Saud announced economic benefits worth over US$130 billion, but authorities continued to jail Saudis for peaceful dissent. New laws introduced or proposed in 2011 criminalize the exercise of basic human rights such as freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Women’s and Girls’ Rights

The Saudi guardianship system continues to treat women as minors. Under this discriminatory system, girls and women of all ages are forbidden from traveling, studying, or working without permission from their male guardians. In 2009 the Ministry of Commerce, though not other ministries, stopped requiring women to conduct ministerial business through a male representative.

On September 25 King Abdullah announced that women will be able to vote in municipal elections in 2015. The government continued to exclude women as voters or candidates in the September 2011 municipal elections, despite a two-year delay to allow for logistical preparations to include women. In March 2011 women activists launched the Baladi (My Country) campaign in protest, trying—unsuccessfully—to register to vote. In the first municipal elections in 2005, authorities said that election workers could not verify a woman’s identity since many did not have identity cards. However, the Interior Ministry began issuing identity cards to women over 22 years old in 2000. The king also promised to appoint women as full members of the Shura Council.

On May 22, Saudi authorities arrested Manal al-Sharif after she defied the kingdom’s de facto ban on women driving. Al-Sharif appeared in a video showing herself behind the wheel. Prosecutors charged her with “tarnishing the kingdom’s reputation abroad” and “stirring up public opinion,” according to Saudi press reports. On May 30, Khobar police released al-Sharif from prison after she appealed to King Abdullah.

On June 17 around 40 women with international drivers’ licenses participated in a “women2drive” campaign. No law bars women from driving, but senior government clerics have ruled against the practice. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to prohibit women from driving.

In view of all this opposition it is remarkable that there are still Saudi men and women ready and willing and risking much, to fight for women rights.

Read more:

Saudi Gazette

CNN

Human rights Watch

AA

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