Saturday, 8 March 2014

Saudi Women's Biggest Issue

Happy International Women's Day gorgeous ladies!
For this occasion, I dedicate this blog post to Saudi women and discuss their BIGGEST issue. A lot would think it's driving, but it's not. It's bigger than that. It is the male guardian's (AKA Mehram/ محرم/MG) permission. The male guardian is typically the father, the husband, the uncle, the brother and it could even be the son if the above are deceased. If you have a normal understanding MG then your life will be normal, but if you have an uptight MG. Then good luck!

Things Saudi women cannot do without a permission: 

 To enrol in school or university, your MG must sign a paper approving.
You can't even get a scholarship abroad without a permission. Your papers won't even get through if you don't have an MG's signature. It doesn't matter if you were the top of your class. No MG no scholarship.
A woman can't get a job in Saudi unless her MG signs an approval letter saying he allows her to work. Before I started working as teaching staff in a university in Saudi, my father had to sign a form allowing me to do it. Of course he was glad for me, but not all MGs are normal. There are a lot of cases when Saudi women were not allowed to work by their husbands because they had the MG's power. For example, my cousin graduated from a university with a medical degree. Medical fields in Saudi are mixed in nature. Her husband didn't let her work. It took her few YEARS to convince him! The new thing now is to add this as a premarital condition to the Islamic marriage contract (Nikkah)!  
Believe it or not. If you are in a governmental hospital, you won't get a surgery unless your MG agrees!
The MG's permission is essential for marriage. Without one a virgin girl (it's ok if she's widowed or divorced) can't get married even if the guy is amazing!
The Saudi Women Revolution Statement
*Official papers (ID, passport & etc)
When I wanted to get my first ID, I was over 20 and the first thing dad asked why do you even need one? It was really frustrating explaining myself just to get an ID! Of course, I couldn't just go to the IDs place and get one. That would be too normal and regular for Saudi. I had to go there with my dad, where I went to the females sections and he went to the males section. Dad had to sign papers for me and wait for hours! It's the same with all official papers. Including bank accounts, passports and all other official papers. A woman just can't go to the governmental office to get her stuff done. She needs to wait on her MG.  
*Booking a hotel room
When my mom was travelling for a conference in another city in Saudi, she had to get a paper signed from her dad and then taken to our city's mayor to be able to book a room! I think this law has changed now. Although, recently my friend couldn't book a joint room with her brother because they didn't have their dad's family card that listed all the children on it. Keep in mind this lady is over 30 years old and they have the same father's name and last name!
For me this one is the worst of them all! I have been living abroad on and off for the past seven years now *mashAllah*, but every single time I go back to Saudi, I have to go beg my dad for a permission before every trip. It used to be a piece of paper, but now with the technology the MG has to sign in and do it electronically. Sometimes the system doesn't work! I was stuck for few hours on Bahrain causeway for my permission to clear! Dad is usually fine when I am travelling for educational purposes, but he doesn't believe in travelling on your own for fun. It is always a battle to convince him. I wanted to go to Dubai to visit my cousin who studies there and he wouldn't give me a permission. Obviously, I couldn't go. As you can see I am still guttered about it. Thankfully, he gave me a permission for my masters. I know some family relatives (and other countless girls in Saudi) who can't even get a permission to go to the capital city to study!
These things are the biggest obstacles for women in Saudi. I know not being able to drive is annoying, but these things are more important. Without the MG's permission a woman is like a captive. She can't really do anything for herself or for her kids. To be honest, this is the reason that holds me back from going back to Saudi.

MG & Islam
The sad part is that the religion of Islam have not imposed these MG rules. Sayedah (Mrs.) Khadijah, the prophet's wife, was a business woman who was in charge of lots of money and male employees. She was the one who even proposed to the prophet! The prophet never told her to stop working or degraded her. He used to work for her. Read more about her as MIIM Designs firm has highlighted her and wrote an article about her for this occasion. Islam values women and gives them some really good rights. It also promotes respect for them. The problem in Saudi is it follows tribal old cultural traditions.

What can we do?
As women now, we can do few things. We can raise awareness and support other women in their growth Muna Abusulayman has really good ideas on taking a personal responsibility in her article.

If you are interested in reading more about Saudi women rights and Middle Eastern women rights and the changes currently happening, please read the collection of short articles on MENA Women: Opportunities and Obstacles in 2014 

Note: This post does not intend on hurting anyone's feelings or to shine negative light on the Saudi society. It is just an eye opener of the current situation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
Feel free to comment and share your personal stories related to the subject. 

1 comment:

  1. So true
    And the reason this is happening is because of the skewed interpretation of the Quran and Islamic texts which was all done by misogynistic scholars and the sheep who follow them.