Saudi Arabia: When is Segregation Taken Too Far?

segregationSegregation is part of the way of life in Saudi Arabia. It is deeply ingrained in the culture. Not all Saudis follow and practice segregation but the majority do. The government schools are segregated. The majority of Universities are segregated. Many companies will have a separate segregated women’s’ section with its own separate entrance. The banks are segregated with a Men’s branch and a ladies branch. Dining areas are segregated. Many Saudi families when visiting together will practice segregation with the men in one area and the women in the other. However I was most surprised to see that segregation was also enforced at King Khalid University Hospital.


I was aware of a nine year old boy who had a medical condition requiring an extended hospital stay. Now in most hospitals in Saudi Arabia and particularly hospitals associated with the Saudi government and/or Ministry of Health, it is very typical for one to have a “sitter” who will come and stay with the patient until they are discharged. This sitter will supplement the care the patient receives by the nursing staff since the hospitals in Saudi Arabia are usually at full occupancy resulting in staff shortages. Now in the case of the nine year old boy one would probably imagine that his sitter would be his mother. However because the boy was located in a male ward he was only allowed to see his mother during the “mixed” visiting hours for one hour each evening. As a result it was his father who was the sitter and stayed with him 24/7 until he was discharged from the hospital. And unlike some of the other hospitals in Saudi Arabia, King Khalid University Hospital did not provide a chair by each bed which folded out into a small cot. Instead the father laid out several blankets and slept on the floor each night beside his son’s bed.


Now I’m not saying there was not and is not a close bond between the father and his son but in this particular case I think that segregation has been taken too far in separating a sick child from its mother except for one hour per day.


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