Thanks to a highly respected source posting on social media site Twitter, the shocking story about discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia. They maybe required to cover their eyes was brought to my attention and I feel compelled to 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 is to be passed by the country’s ‘Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ but it seems likely.
“women are at fault for having ‘tempting’ eyes”
The story was produced by the International Business Times and Daily Mail which admittedly isn’t always the most reliable media source, but it has been checked in several other publications and appears accurate.
The reason for introducing this new edict; apparently one of the committee members was ‘attracted’ by the eyes of a woman he passed. She was accompanied by her husband who took offence and fight ensued in which the husband was stabbed twice in a hand.
Reading between the lines it would appear that an arrogant committee member who offended another man refused to apologise causing a heated altercation. The result instead of blaming him, the committee has decided that women are at fault for having ‘tempting’ eyes.
I believe that the customs and culture of a nation should 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 handed down for many generations. Sometimes these traditions and the spectacles which accompany them often described as ‘sports’ such as bullfighting can be reprehensible to us. Cruelty to animals needs to be addressed, however the heritage of a nation needs to be considered carefully. The manner in which change is sought should 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, and is in fact 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 to be a knee-jerk reaction to one incident which involved a member of the ‘virtue’ committee. If men are attracted to the eyes of women and find them tempting, maybe a fairer method would be to cover the eyes of men? Of course we are aware this option would not even have been discussed let alone taken, it is far better to further subjugate women than do anything to upset the males of the country.
There is a long list of other instances of how Saudi Arabia has treated its womenfolk in recent years, some of which allegedly costing lives.
This is not about culture, many of us embrace a societies idiosyncrasies the fact they are unusual attracts visitors every year. The treatment of 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 the population of this nation. 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 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 are 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 was form of oppression was happening in a European country with an ethnic minority being prejudiced against in a similar manner there would be a global outcry.
Supporters of this oppressive discrimination will almost certainly 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 some truth in this, but it does not require any great insight to comprehend this is a form of tyranny.
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 can be publicly flogged for refusing to wear headdress 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 the evidence of this new proposed 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 regarding the injustice and social or environmental problems that exist. It is entirely up to the reader how they react to these topics.
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 pictures.