Saudi Arabia is a conservative country that is governed by principles and values of Islam. In fact, politics and religion are not separated from each other in the state. Religion particularly affects the gender context, where men have much more rights and possibilities than women. Accordingly, the conservative politics of Saudi Arabia is based on Islamic values governing the statuses of males and females, where the latter are limited in their rights and activities by tradition.
Statement of Issue
The country is characterized with gender inequality, where women have virtually no rights. Females’ rights in Saudi Arabia are a set of rules and restrictions, based on patriarchal laws of Sharia. Women in Saudi Arabia are prohibited to take part in elections and to engage in politics as well, although King Abdullah promised that they would vote in 2015 (Butters, 2015). Females also cannot go out without the support of their husbands (“Eleven Things,” 2015). A man-caregiver plays an important role in all aspects of a woman’s life. Many liberal activists criticize male guardians, indicating that the rule demeans the dignity of females by equating it to a subordinate or a child. They point to many cases where a woman was forced to give up work at the request of a trustee, and some children were taken by force because of the lack of human care.
Females’ behavior and lifestyle are completely governed by religion. For example, they are obliged to wear black clothes (abaya), and in some areas completely cover their bodies except the eyes. Accordingly, dress code for women is controlled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law (“Eleven Things,” 2015). Thus, they express submission to their husbands, and show that they do not provoke other men. The gender policy is that males should take care of women, and therefore the latter do not need education as well as employment. However, a female has no right to get an education or to go abroad if a man does not allow it (“Eleven Things,” 2015).
Recently, Saudi policymakers tried to change the situation with gender segregation in the country. The progressive reign of King Abdullah is trying to give more rights to women. The policy is associated with integration into the world community, and the attempt to rehabilitate its image after the events of 11 September (Ochsenwald, 2015).
The main advantage is that the government has created international community, which values women’s rights. The King Abdullah opened the first university in the country where females can study together with men. The King is also drawing attention to violence in the family, which is widespread in the state (Ochsenwald, 2015). In this case, he struggles against child marriages. Besides, for the first time a woman has headed one of the posts in King’s administration. Moreover, the King has allowed females to drive and vote in elections.
Despite this, the main disadvantage is that conservative Islamic clergy keeps trying to prevent these reforms both legally and illegally, thus gender inequality still continues to be practiced in the country. Politicians pay more attention to the social dimension, but female private space remains depressed. The rights of women to inheritance, education, and social realization still belong to their husbands.
First of all, the Saudi policy should allow women to participate in political life, which will enable the government to carry out reforms concerning the gender issue. The transformations should aim not to change females’ rights, but to change general human rights as well. In addition, the government should clearly distinguish between women’s public and private space, and also reduce the influence of religion on the lives of individuals of both genders. Additionally, the law should secure females’ rights in order to defend them at the official level.
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