The phrase “women rights” refers to the entitlement and the freedom that is given to women and girls. Whether women rights are respected in various parts of the world depends on the behavior of members of the society towards women, their status in the society, and their role in the society based on the traditions and beliefs. The ignorance or suppression of the women rights is considered to be one through which the women’s rights are violated. Due to the injustice that women have experienced and still continue to experience in the modern society, the issue of women rights has become very important in the society.
Women and their supporters have shown their commitment to promote women rights and to fight against the violation of these rights. Saudi Arabia is an example of a nation that has received criticism for violating women rights. The violation is associated with the religious practices, beliefs, and traditions of the Saudi people. The men in Saudi Arabia are considered to be in the forefront in violating women’s rights. In this paper, the issue of women rights violation in Saudi Arabia will be discussed. The primary source of information will be an article known as “A woman’s work in progress” (Blum, 2006)
Discussion The relationship between religion and violation of women rights in Saudi Arabia The violation of women rights in Saudi Arabia has been referred to as the gross violation of basic human rights. Saudi Arabia has been criticized as one of the nations that have allowed men to violate women rights. This has made many women to fight for the women rights are to call for concerted action against the violation at the local, national and international levels. Islam as a religion speaks against discrimination and violation of women’s rights.
However; it is Islam which is the dominant religion in Saudi Arabia that has been linked to the women rights violation in the country. The Saudi Arabian government is an Islamic absolute monarchy; hence the authority in the country is based on the Islamic religious teachings and beliefs. Some international human rights organizations such as the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee have issued reports sighting the severe limitation of women rights in the country.
Although the Saudi government denies that it allows the violation of women rights, the Sharia Law that is applied in the country has proved that gross violations of women rights occur in Saudi Arabia. The legal traditions in the country promote the violation of women rights since it is the same Islamic law that violates women rights is used by the state to protect human rights. How women rights in Saudi Arabia are violated According to Blums article, “A woman’s work in progress”, there is need to transform the religious beliefs that promote the violation of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
The article brings out the ill treatment of Saudi Arabia by the men who hold leadership positions and enforce the Islamic practices and beliefs that undermine women’s rights. The article brings out the ill treatment of Saudi Arabia’s female population. Just like in other Islamic regimes, Saudi Arabian women are unable to enjoy their freedom which is every individual’s right as human being. The Arab world which includes Saudi Arabia since the ancient time is considered to promote women rights’ violation, a situation that makes it necessary to address this problem urgently.
One way through which women’s’ rights are violated in Saudi Arabia is through honor killings. Women and girls in Saudi Arabia are required to take part in honor killings in order to protect the family’s honor (Friedman, 2003). This is accepted in Saudi Arabia even in cases where a woman has been abused by men. For instance, the article describes how a female teenager was killed by a mother in 2003. According to the mother, the raping of the girl by her two older brothers was a sin that would destroy the family’s honor and in order to protect the family honour, it was important for the girl to die.
The girl who was a victim of rape was killed by the mother after wrapping a tight bag around her head, slicing her wrist, and striking her with a stick when she went limp. This is one example of the horror that Saudi Arabian women go through in order to protect their family’s honor. This violation is allowed to take place even when the female are the ones who have been offended by the men. For example, raping of a woman or a girl is itself an abuse and violation of the victim’s rights. However, instead of having the male abusers severely punished, the women who are rape victims are taken through the horrifying experience of honor killing.
Honor killings in Saudi Arabia are justified by religious teachings and beliefs and are aimed at murdering a woman or a girl who is considered to commit an act that embarrasses or shames the family. Women are killed so that the family shows the community that it has reasserted its control. Although the Islamic teachings based on the Quran does not support honor killings, Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia support the killings. Religious education support honor killings. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the tenth-grade textbooks are used to teach children that it is permissible to have adulterers killed.
This makes the girls unable to access to online websites such as face book which may be considered to promote immorality. In 2008, a Saudi Arabian father killed his daughter for communicating with a boy on the face book. This was condemned by human rights activists and organizations. Although the question of whether honor killings are cultural or religious has led to a debate, women in Saudi Arabia are still subjected to it. In Saudi Arabia, women are strictly expected to wear correct Islamic dresses the failure to this results to severe punishment for women.
According to the article “A woman’s work on progress”, this law has been used in the past to condemn girls who had not won the Islamic dresses to death. For instance, in 2002, some Saudi Arabian police are said to have stopped girls who had not won the correct Islamic dresses from leaving a building that was on fire. The young girls perished in the fire. This is seen to be a very cruel ideology that makes people consider clothing to be more important than a persons’ life. The Islamic or Sharia law requires women to wear a hijab. In Saudi Arabia, a hijab is considered to be part of abaya.
Women are expected to cover themselves in public and in Saudi Arabia, the covering of the body is enforced by the muttawwa or the religious police (Saidi, 2000). Although all Muslim women should wear the hijab or the abaya, human rights activists consider it unjust to subject young girls or women to suffering or death simply because they have not won the correct Islamic dress. This has made some Islamic women to advocate for change in such ideologies. Women’s freedom is limited in Saudi Arabia (Chauhan, 2004). This makes it difficult for the Saudi Arabian women to express themselves.
The limitation of women’s freedom is aimed at preventing the free mix of women and men. In addition, the freedom of movement of women is limited. For example, women are not allowed to drive, which limits their freedom. Although this is not expressed in the Islamic religious teachings, it is followed because it is perceived to be the government’s obedience to the law as well as the will of the people. Due to the limitation of women to drive, initiatives to coerce the Saudi government to change this has been made by various women rights group.
For instance, the committee of Demanders of Women’s’ Right to drive cars in 2007 tried to request King Abdullah to lift the ban on women driving. The driving ban on women is not based on Islamic law but on the fatwas. The fatwas in Saudi Arabia is issued by the senior Islamic clerics. According to the prohibition explanation, women who drive create situations that promote sinful temptation. In the past, women who have tried to drive have lost their jobs, their passports confiscated, and also jailed.
Amid protests that the prohibition on women driving should be removed in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia’s’ interior minister in 2007 dismissed calls to have the ban lifted. Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz dismissed the calls and said that the country had other priorities. Another way through which Saudi Arabian women freedom is violated is by being married off without consent (Menoret, 2005). Forced or arranged marriages in Saudi Arabia sometimes deny women an opportunity to give consent whether they agree to be married to a particular man.
Saudi Arabia has been recorded as promoting both arranged and forced marriages including those that involve children. Child marriage continues to be witnessed in Saudi Arabia which demands that young girls get married to partners that have been chosen by their parents. For example, it has been reported that a 47 year old man in Saudi Arabia was allowed to marry an eight year old girl proving that child marriages continue to be witnessed in Saudi Arabia. Examples of organizations that are trying to fight child marriage in Saudi Arabia are the Saudi Human Rights Commission.
Furthermore, right groups are now petitioning the Saudi government to put into place laws that will protect the female children from arranged marriages. The Saudi kingdom grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh has been quoted as saying that marrying off a girl who is 15 or younger is not wrong. Women in Saudi Arabia are barred from voting, another violation of their right to choose or elect their leaders. Since Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, the rules and laws that are enforced prevent women from voting in the Kingdom’s municipal elections.
One reason that has been given in the past is that only a small percentage of women in the country had photo identity cards. This shows the discrimination of women when it comes to decisions about leadership in the country. The highly conservation Islamic or Sharia law interpretations in Saudi Arabia has made women to live within highly circumscribed rights (Crone,2005). The Saudi Arabian women freedom of movement depends on whether they are accompanied by a male relative hence the law prohibits women from traveling without the company of male relatives. The reason for this is that the male relatives are meant to protect the woman.
However, this has been seen as a violation of women’s right to freedom. The conviction that beliefs drive behaviors makes Blum’s article to conclude that Islam has played a role in encouraging Saudi women rights’ violation. It is recommended that Islam be reformed or be rejected. In efforts to encourage reforms in Islam, speaking out against the unjust treatment of Saudi Arabia women by men is condemned by many Muslims who refer to those fighting for Muslim women’s’ right as being sick-minded woman. This is a clear indication that women in Saudi Arabia are expected to follow every religious belief without questioning it.
Furthermore, the fact that the opinion of Muslim clerics who support the violation of women rights is highly regarded in Saudi Arabia is worrying to women rights’ activists. The great influence of the religious beliefs on Kingdom of Saudi Arabia political leadership and legal system has made it impossible for women to participate in political matters. For instance, Prince Nayef bin Sultan who is a highly regarded leader in Saudi Arabia has discouraged the involvement of Saudi Arabian women in the voting process. Because Islam cannot be reformed, transformation is seen as the best alternative.
Islamic teachings and laws do not allow reforms because they require that anyone who questions the religious teachings or laws to be killed. Due to the violation of their rights based on the religious teachings, Muslim women are seen as the beneficiaries of a transformed Islam. To Muslim women who are advocating for transformation in the religion, women have lost a lot while men have acquired great powers to treat women in an ill manner. Severe punishment for women who may try to defy religious beliefs and teachings has undermined Saudi Arabian women to speak against the treatment they receive.
The limitation to the freedom to express oneself ensures that women cannot initiate efforts to speak out against laws that violate their rights (Laube, 2003). For example, many women participate in forced and arranged marriages even when they do not fully support the idea. These women participate in efforts to marry off their young girls to older men because the law demands that they obey the recommendations of the religious teachings and the Muslim clerics who hold the opinion that girls aged between 10 and 15 can be married.
Though women desire to protect their daughters from the Saudi Arabia religious laws that violate their rights, the fear that going against the teachings might result to their deaths keeps them quiet men . The men are the heads of the families and the final decisions lie with them. Therefore, a woman’s objection to some religious practices and beliefs that she may consider to be a violation of her rights is unacceptable in the Saudi society. However, the women require encouragement and courage to fight the Islamic laws that continue to violate their rights (Leila, 1992).
With women denied the freedom to express themselves, to make their own decisions, to drive cars, and to make decisions about when and who to marry, access to the modern technology such as the internet makes it necessary to have the limitation of the freedom addressed. For example, the killing of a daughter by a father who discovered that she had communicated with a man over the face book shows clearly that using modern technology in some way is limited to many Saudi Arabian women. The fact that women are controlled by the men makes it difficult for women to access and use modern technology that may be seen as promoting bad behavior.
In Blum’s article “A woman’s work in progress”, Muslim mothers are ashamed about their daughters who have chosen to speak against the Islamic teachings and practices that tend to violate the women’s rights. For such a family to look positively at efforts that discourage and fight some religious teachings is tough in Saudi Arabia. The restrictions that have been put into place in Saudi Arabia continue to cause suffering to women and despite the suffering that women go through, their belief that they must have a man to protect them continues to make them persevere suffering that results from the violation of their rights.
The women therefore without remorse work together with men to stigmatize and discriminate women who may be victims of Islamic law that violate women’s rights. Women are expected to serve men, but men have no obligation to serve women. For example, the mentality that women are obligated to serve men and going against this is subject to punishment has been shaped in the people’s mind for over 1400 years in the Arabian society. Making Islamic teachings the only source of information for many women closes them off from the rest of the world.
The women cannot learn about other cultures and beliefs and this limits them to the teachings and beliefs of Islam. This also undermines their right of freedom because the women cannot express and share their opinion about their life experiences (Walters, 2005). By providing women with avenues through which they can share their problems with other women around the globe, the Saudi Arabian women can be empowered to fight against what is seen as “barbaric” laws that suppress women and violate their rights can be challenged.
In the modern Saudi Arabia, challenging religious practices that violate women’s rights is difficult due to the institutionalization of the practices. The great influence of religion on Saudi political system demands that changes to the religious laws get support from the government leaders. For example, the internal Minister of Saudi Arabia has objected the proposal to allow women to drive. The Minister also objects the idea that women should vote in municipal elections. The Saudi government is an Islamic monarchy which demands that its leaders enforce what the Islamic religious teachings dictate.
Therefore, lack of willingness and commitment by the Saudi leaders to initiate efforts that will ensure that women’s rights are not violated will continue to undermine the respect for women’s rights. Until the leaders look at the issues raised by women and human rights in a positive manner, then they will not be able to discourage human rights violation. The human rights in Saudi Arabia are contained in the basic law of Saudi Arabia in Article 5(Dien, 2004). Saudi women continue to face discrimination in employment and education because the women lack equal opportunities with the men since they are considered to be inferior to men.
For example, women only make up 5 percent of the total workforce in Saudi Arabia. This is the lowest proportion of women in the workforce in the world. Some have even continued to refer to the discrimination of women in Saudi Arabia as “gender apartheid”, and the efforts to have the government expand the employment chances for women in the country has faced resistance from the labor ministry as well as the men. The perception that a woman’s place is at home where she should take care of the family and the husband need to change. Conclusion
The issue of women rights and their violation has triggered debates in various parts of the world. However; some nations have been criticized for allowing gross violation of women rights. A good example is Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is has an Islamic monarchy government is governed by Islamic law that has been attributed to the violation of the rights of Saudi women. Although other nations and governments in the world have in one way or another been involved in the violation of women’s rights, Saudi Arabia government is considered to make no efforts to minimize of prevent the violation of women in the country.
This has made many women and human rights organization to speak out against the unfair and unjust treatment that the Saudi Arabian women receive from the men. This has continued to put pressure on the government to make it a priority to do away with the religious practices and beliefs that encourage the violation of women’s rights. However; this is viewed by some as efforts by those who speak against the religious beliefs to fight men.