Thanks to a highly respected source posting on social media site Twitter, a shocking story of discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia has surfaced. There is a possibility they may require to cover their eyes in future, and this seems worthy of comment.
Apparently Saudi women with ‘attractive’ eyes may in future be required to cover them up; the reason to prevent them ‘tempting’ men! It will require an edict passing by the country’s ‘Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ but it seems possible.
“women are at fault for having ‘tempting’ eyes”
The story published in the International Business Times, and Daily Mail, the latter admittedly isn’t always the most reliable media source. However the story appears in several other publications and appears correct.
The reason for introducing this new edict; apparently one of the committee members was ‘attracted’ by the eyes of a woman he passed. The woman’s husband accompanied her, and took offence. A fight ensued in which the husband was stabbed twice in a hand.
Reading between the lines it seems that an arrogant committee member who offended another man refused to apologise causing a heated argument. The result; instead of blaming him, the committee came to the conclusion that women are at fault for having ‘tempting’ eyes!
I believe that the customs, and culture of a nation are to be respected; causing offence in another country due to ignorance or plain arrogance is quite unacceptable. The intentional wearing of provocative clothing likely to cause offence in a region where this is frowned upon is disrespectful at best.
Even if some of the customs and traditions are difficult to accept or understand. It is often the way of life and national identity of a nation that has been passed down for many generations. Sometimes these traditions and the spectacles which accompany them often described as ‘sports’ such as bullfighting are reprehensible to us. Cruelty to animals needs addressing, however the heritage of a nation also needs considering carefully. The way we bring about change must be respectful and understanding of the traditions. Attempting to force change will not always be effective and responsible travellers that boycott’ such events by non-attendance may eventually bring about the change required.
“protect the women’s virtue and modesty”
Edicts such as this one enforcing women cover their eyes however has little to do with tradition. It is not a part of the heritage of the country, it has not been passed down for generations, it is yet to be passed. It has been necessary for women to wear the long black robe an abaya, cover their heads and even faces for sometime this much maybe true. The reasons given for such draconian forms of dress are supposedly to protect the women’s virtue and modesty.
This new edict seems a knee-jerk reaction to one incident which involved a member of the ‘virtue’ committee. If attracted by the eyes of women, men finding them too tempting, maybe they should cover their eyes; would this not seem fairer? Of course we are aware this option will not even be discussed let alone taken, it is far better to further subjugate women than do anything to upset the ruling male class of the country.
There is a long list of other instances of how Saudi Arabia has treated its women in recent years, some of which allegedly cost lives.
This is not about culture, many of us embrace a societies idiosyncrasies the fact they are unusual attracts visitors every year. Discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia is a form of tyranny, freedom of speech and will is a right most of us take for granted, but is not available to them.
“The mutilation is carried out on young girls”
We appreciate being able to dress as we please, act and speak with free will. These basic ‘rights’ are being withheld from at least fifty percent of this nation’s population. Women are prohibited from driving and travelling without being granted permission from a male family member.
A horrendous procedure known as female genital mutilation is practiced here, in common with a number of Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. The mutilation is carried out on young girls to protect the honour of the female before marriage. It is irreversible, carried out without anesthetic, mortality rates are high and survivors may be traumatised for life. I have not provided a link to suitable sites as it is likely many will find the images too distressing.
It is difficult to rationalise the reasons behind any of these restrictions or practices without considering them prejudice. Change can take time, but sometimes that change is simply too slow and edicts which force women to cover head to toe cannot be considered a step in the right direction.
If this form of oppression was happening in a European country with an ethnic minority being prejudiced against in a similar way there would be a global outcry.
Supporters of this oppressive discrimination will point out there are women that support these restrictions and that is true. They will also try to convince us we do not understand their culture and there is also truth in this, but it does not need any great insight to comprehend this is a form of oppression.
My twitter source posed the question “Why do Saudi women put up with this?” Maybe the question should be how do they oppose it in a regime where women are publicly flogged for refusing to wear headdress, being raped or attempting to learn to drive.
It is shocking to hear that this Saudi Arabia is not really moving forward despite women being promised a vote in the 2015 elections. On this evidence, the proposed new edict, Saudi women are not moving closer to equality but are suffering further discrimination and are the victims of oppression.
It is unlikely we will see any real changes in the foreseeable future, there is not the global will of western governments to bring it about. Lobbying our own governments might be one way to force change but they are more concerned with oil reserves and consumption and will not wish to upset the suppliers.
Until circumstances change we can only do what we are able, sharing information about the injustice and social or environmental problems that exist, and choosing not to travel. It is entirely up to the reader how they react to these topics.
This proposed edict change eventually came to nothing, but the mere fact it was seriously discussed is shameful. Further more, Saudi Arabia still in 2016 continues to flog women who are raped, refuses basic rights to drive or travel.
Related help organisations:
Postscript: It is also distressing to discover when searching for royalty free images of Arabic women most sites seem to offer only images of ‘sexy’ or ‘beautiful’ women.