Women in Saudi Arabia

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The topic of this paper will focus on the women in Saudi Arabia. This topic is not only interesting and timely; it shows that even the countries whose economy is highly developed, can still have problems within the country. Saudi Arabia may be a paradise and an attraction for many people to live in because of its economic stability and its high living standards, it is also a nightmare for many of the women who live there with no rights. Saudi Arabia is a prime example of how some countries still deprive women of their basic rights, and treat them in a way that is inferior to men. Although Saudi Arabia is being run on the basis of the Islamic Shariaa law, it goes beyond what Islam says and it deprives women of their autonomy. The injustice ranges from the way women are forced to dress to the roles they are forced to play in society. In Saudi Arabia women’s voices are muted and they have almost no freedom to express themselves in any fashion. It is a country which clearly holds the roles of men as being much higher than those of women. The preconceptions that men in Saudi Arabia have about women are old fashioned and deprive women from becoming autonomous. However, recently women are beginning to realize their rights and more women are beginning to speak out against the injustice that they are living in. It is my hypothesis that the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia is not only outdated and contradictory to basic human rights, but also if women were able to develop their capacities the country would benefit.

Role of Women
Despite some of the improvements that Saudi Arabia has made in the area of gender roles, it still lags behind in allowing women freedom in many areas. It is a general viewpoint in Saudi Arabia that women belong inside the home and that employment outside of the home is the role of a man. This viewpoint is expressed by many important male figures. Sheikh Salah Bin Fawzan Al-Fawzan was quoted as saying “Allah created man and woman, and endowed each with an inborn inclination for certain types of work - because human society needs both men and women to work in their designated [areas]: men work outside the home and women work inside it” (Azuri). According to figures presented in the article by Azuri, women in the Saudi Arabia workforce comprise only 5%. This percentage is extremely low, and in fact is the lowest proportion anywhere in the world. This percentage shows how unjust the system is in Saudi Arabia because according to statistics, women make up around 70% of the students in Saudi Institutes of higher learning (Azuri). This staggering difference between the women who are educated and the women employed shows how much potential women have in their intellectual abilities as compared to how much they are allowed to apply themselves in the workforce. Despite the many oppressed women that are in Saudi Arabia, a minority of the women were able to break free and establish high positions in the work force. A prime and rare example is Businesswoman Lubna al Olayan, who in 2004 was elected to the board of directors of Saudi Hollandi Bank, making her the first woman in Saudi Arabia to hold such a position (Saleh). Her success was attributed mostly to her connections through her rich family, however, she still remains a source of inspiration to many women. Although the stereotypically defined role of a woman in Saudi Arabia is to stay at home and take care of the children she does not have all of the rights to make decisions for her child. They cannot enroll their children in school, open bank accounts for them and they can’t even travel with their children unless there is a written approval by the father (“Sex Segregation Keeps…”). In a sense women are assigned a task by society, but they are not able to fulfill the task which they have been assigned.

Women in Saudi Arabia are required to abide by a strict dress code which is enforced by the mutawaa, who are religious police...
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