Gender Equality In Saudi Arabia Essay

872 words - 3 pages

Evaluating the degree of gender stratification in Saudi Arabia in comparison to other Middle Eastern counties requires the inclusion of Islamic fundamentals principles in the interpretation of their moral code. Alsaleh (2012) notes the lowest rate of female education and the highest levels of gender restrictions of women are most prevalent within Middle Eastern countries that enforce Islamic doctrine. Saudi Arabia exemplifies the moral and gender-specific Islamic prohibitions through their lack of law “addressing violence against women” (Alsaleh 2012:125), noting that violent crimes against women are rarely reported for fear of reprisal, and discussing them publically is prohibited. Prohibitions against unchaperoned travel and the freedom of assembly impede Saudi women ability to exercise their civil liberties, such as voting, and the ability to congregate with other women. Gender inequality in employment is evident, as Saudi women comprise only five percent of the nation’s work force (Purdy 2011), with more than one-half of employed Saudi women holding college degrees in comparison to only 16 percent of Saudi males (Alsaleh 2012).
A review of reforms and consideration of gender equality in Saudi Arabia is available through the publication of an English-language Saudi daily newspaper and internet feed called the Arab News (Lichter 2009). The Arab News focuses on the social reforms of Saudi women including the probation against driving, domestic violence and educational inequities (Lichter 2009). The furor over Saudi driving restrictions have sparked several on-line initiatives, resulting in an 2011 driving protest in which 40 Saudi women were arrested. This action initiated a Saudi moral definition of the term “licentiousness”, describing the willful disobedience of driving. When the subject of driving restriction were evaluated, the Saudi government countered with the argument that the problem is not with women driving per see, the problem exists with the provision that women could not acquire a driver’s license as they would have to remove their facial veil for the license photo. Showing a woman’s face would be an egregious sin against Islamic law. Instead of reconsidering license photo restrictions, the Saudi government puts their spin on the subrogation of women through the insidious “protections” of Islamic fundamentalism (Lichter 2009). Saudi reform reflects challenges to the perceived inequalities that affect women but never to the interpretation and distortions of Islamic law. The basis of Saudi reform is that followers of Islam does not require them “to cover their faces or to lead a sequestered life” (Lichter 2009:284). Hatoon Al-Fassi, a Arabia reformist writes that “the greater independence enjoyed by women in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods...

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