Saudi Arabia and Women: Who Gets the Gold Medal


I guess last month’s Olympics make me still have medals on my mind…as well as reflecting again how Saudi Arabia chose not to have any women on its team.  Therefore these combined topics got me to thinking, when it comes to the world’s nations and treatment of women, who would get the Gold Medal for giving the most rights, recognition and best treatment of women?  Or perhaps to make it easier for commenting, how about instead we informally rank nations in the opposite manner.  Who would get the Gold Medal on the basis for least women rights and worst treatment of women?


Let’s begin with facts.  Of course I will cite facts of Saudi Arabia since that is where I am.  Women cannot drive.  Women cannot vote.  Women must have a mahrem (male guardian) to represent them.  The culture (and muttawa) expect women to cover.  Women cannot participate in the Olympics.   Hmmm….sounds like Saudi Arabia may have an excellent chance then for the Gold Medal on least rights and worst treatment of women.


When I compare against conservative Afghanistan, women can vote, Afghan women were on the Olympic team,..hmmm…not sure on the driving or mahrem.  Yes; the Afghan culture (and Taliban) expect women to cover.  So maybe Afghanistan would get silver or bronze?


How about Iran?  Women can drive.  Women can vote.  Not sure on the mahrem….  Women can easily go covered or uncovered.


So Kuwait?  Women can drive.  Not sure on the voting.  Women must have a mahrem.  Kuwaiti women are expected to cover but you do see some who do not.  Women can participate in the Olympics.


How about some other comparisons and views here?  And in closing, another question here… while I cite Saudi Arabia as examples of lack of rights women do not have, which ones are really important in the overall scheme of things and for the ultimate betterment of women?

23 Responses

  1. Yemen, hands down…women must cover, women can vote only what their husbands tell them to vote for; women can go to school-until primary4th grade then are married off no say in the matter you are only 8, 10, 12, 15 or you go all the way until university threatening and nagging all the way and then no one wants to marry an educated woman even the most of educated men; you can’t go to the doctor by yourself and if treatment is given its what your husband says not what the doctor orders; you never get your Mahr your father or Uncle gets it; you can get a drivers license…and you go no where with out a guardian- even if he is only 10 years old; and if your mother in law says you can’t go out even when your husband says yes- well there goes another decade behind high walls where the sun don’t shine…

  2. The pictures of Ruqaya Al Ghasara gives hope. I remember when she won the 200 gold in the Asian games. She represent Bahrain and made the decision to wear the Hijab even though it is not a requirement by her country. Just a testament that religion should not stop women from accomplishments.

    Inal, Thanks for the comment. I guess the gold is more competitive than I thought.

  3. Inal – I had no idea Yemen was so oppressive for women! And I agree with Saudi in US that Ruqaya Al Ghasara is a great example for muslim women athletes.

  4. […] Saudi Arabia and Women: Who Gets the Gold MedalI guess last month’s Olympics make me still have medals on my mind…as well as reflecting again how Saudi Arabia chose not to have any women on its team. Therefore these combined topics got me to thinking, when it comes to the world’s … […]

  5. My neighbors are yemeni…their daughter was attending school with my daughter and they were the best of friends. Then one day it was announced that the daughter was getting married…just like that…without even really discussing it with her or asking her opinion. She was taken out of school…engaged and married within 2 months…and only 16 years old. There were promises by her husband (her first cousin no less) that her education would continue…4 years and 2 kids later…she is a sad tired 20 year old that had the light of possibility snuffed out without even asking her if it was ok….so sad.

    I agree with Inil…yemen is not only still living in the dark ages when it comes to females…they arent even bothering to look for the lightswitch.

  6. Again, another eye-opener. I don’t know that much about Yemen other than a lot of Yemenis are shopkeepers here in Saudi.

  7. American Bedu one of the news sites in Yemen that gives you a window into their society, if you read them carefully, is the Yemen Times. The owner/editor is a female Yemeni journalist whose Father was a progressive man for Yemeni standards. She is married to a Jordanian which accounts for her continued work as a Journalist and Yemeni Activist.

    There has been a series of weekend articles in their “Youth” section (its not about babies and kids) on “conversations” of whether men should marry “educated” or “uneducated” women… in the 21st Century???!!!

    Another recent article by a doctor talks of the health care crisis in Yemen for women…

    And I agree with coolred38, the light-switch is not really part of their vocabulary- no matter how much some (less than .1%) in Yemen are more progressive- the wave of illiteracy and dark age mentality is too strong to make much of a dent…because those women who go up the ranks are token, powerless people put there to appease the world at large- but nothing under it.

    At ground level its as though nothing has happened in the last 2 or 3 centuries- and I am being generous.

  8. I still think Pakistan heads the women-hate league, recalling the tribal tradition of shooting little girls and burying them alive, as well as any older women who dare to object. Every two hours a woman gets raped, women get no healthcare at all. The nurses who travel about to give women some sort of healthcare get raped because they are out and no women should be out so iy’s quite reasonable to rape and occasionally kill them. When a ”man” needs an new dowry his current wife get doused in kerosine and burned alive, this is then justified by the trumped up charge of having been seen talking to a cousin or something, and everybody thinks its a good solution.
    Sometimes a woman survives this treatment which is always a bit embarrassing, but they usually die after a few months of excruciating pain and minimal care, so one just needs a bit of patience.

    China deserves an ”honorable” mention for the folklorist tradition of killing babies when they have dissappointingly turned out to be girls and then dumping them in the gutter.
    Where no passer by gives them a second glance.
    Well who would? Just girls. Who cares?

  9. This post strikes a chord with me as it seems that all the Muslim countries are competing for the podium. Why is that? After all, Islam brought woman’s rights to the forefront over 1400 years ago. Sadly, we have not continued with our visionary thinking.

    In my humble opinion, woman’s rights within the Arab and Muslim world is a polorizing topic. Yes, there are many cases of oppression of women. This is more due to culture and heritage rather than religion. After all, who interprets the religion? Sadly, it is men only that have that perogrative and they will only see it from their masculine viewpoint.

    However, there are also many cases of them being entrenepeneurs and role models once given the chance. In the UAE, local females in universities outnumber the local males. However, we need to make the distinction between promoting woman’s rights and becoming bleeding liberals. There is a fine line and the balance comes out as the “common good.”

  10. While Pakistan has its problems with womens issues and rights, I don’t want you to think Aafke that the whole country treat the women poorly or that all the women there are abused. There are so many progressive women in Pakistan and they do have a lot of rights as compared to what we are learning about in Yemen for example or so many parts of Africa where genital mutilation is still practiced.

    And i agree with Siwash that it is not religion by any means suppressing women in various regions but the culture and heritage.

  11. Carol,

    I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy watching the new young Saudi business women find fulfilling careers here in fields other than the typical ones of 10 to 20 years ago.

    I think that everyone needs to give this part of the world more time to adjust to this new, modern woman and see how she can still fit into this very conservative society as it moves along.

  12. That is a good point to raise, A2S. I have recently met some new Saudi women who are professionals and great role models for all women – whether Saudi or not.

  13. Although, I used to view SA as extremely oppressive to women, the government have woken up at some point and I saw a big change.. especially when they announced that women IDs are being issued. Its a huge step because without individual identification, a female would not be an entity on her own. Even though it’s not a clear message, but I think the government plans to make all females acquire this ID in due process and not as a national championing to make the process subtle to ultra conservatives. For example when female students graduate high school they will have a test to measure their academic aptitude, to take this test they must issue their own ID.

    About Yemen, I think Yemen has a more dangerous issue than just female oppression.. Yemen still adapts a social cast system and slavery still exists there. It’s sad to see whole families consider themselves slaves to another family without any merit but just having a linage that they consider masters.

  14. You’re right DW – I am happy to see the women here getting their own id’s.

    Back to the topic, it sure is sounding more and more like Yemen may get the gold medal.

  15. American Bedu,

    The descriptions of life for women in your blog and by your commenters is just horrific!

    And while I hope not to be polarizing or argumentative as a guest commenting on your blog, can I say that aborting a girl child is probably the worst treatment ever? I don’t know that Americans can get all “high n mighty” about the treatment of minority religions or women when this practice is allowed in cases where the mother’s life is not in imminent danger.

    Though of course I ought not hesitate to add that this does not lessen the fact that there is maltreatment of women in other countries.

  16. Mrs. C,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure where the aborting a girl child comment is from…unless that is in response to someone else’s comment. I know I never posted anything like that! In fact, while yes, boys are revered in Saudi Arabia, girls are also loved and cherished too.

    This particular post subject may be harsh and focuses more on negative aspects but I hope you will read other posts which give other perspectives about the life of women in Saudi Arabia.

  17. Oh, goodness… no, I mean that sometimes we “Westerners” can look down on other cultures when really, abortion is infanticide pure and simple. Here in America, Sarah Palin has been criticised for having a Downs Syndrome child… the alternative being… ? To my mind, abortion is uncivilized.

    I’m sorry. Maybe that is out of the blue, but I just can’t see myself adopting a critical stance when we still have beams in our own eyes over here, you know? :]

  18. What does abortion have to do with the treatment of women in the US or other countries? Rather bizarre comparison to make.

  19. Mrs. C,

    I have been watching the Sarah Palin debate here for the last week. I have never seen anyone criticize her for having a down syndrome child at least in mainstream media. Now there could be some loony bloggers out there that do that, but there are loonies that think Hitler was a great guy too. You cannot say that is an attack as there will always be someone that is not important attacking every person in politics.

  20. Tulip, I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to be bizarre… more… trying to point out that we Americans can be a rather judgmental lot when IMO we have our own problems, is all. :]

    And thank you, Saudi in US. I was just *very bothered* by these attacks. I think however you feel about women in politics we can all agree some of them are extreme.

    I didn’t mean to hijack the thread. I apologize. I was only trying to point out that in my opinion we don’t have much of a leg to stand on when criticising other countries’ human rights records when we allow people to selectively kill their children.

  21. Mrs C – your last paragraph in the comment above now sheds the light on why you were posting about abortion in regards to this subject. I think it might be mixing apples and oranges a bit but I am going to stay FAR AWAY from discussing the issue of abortion.

    Yes; every country will have something or many somethings which stand up and make one question ethics or rights… but I do believe as compared to so many other countries, the USA falls way low on the list of having records with the worse statutes of abuse and liberties.

  22. Well. as soon as you see someone that has PLUCKED EYEBROWS there is nothing more to say except that the curse of allah is on her.

    so curse her more

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