Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 25th, 2020

Heightening Position of Women in Saudi Arabia


Heightening Position of  Women in Saudi Arabia

Through out most part of history women have been discriminated in some way or the other. Most of the human societies in history have been patriarchal with men having the upper hand in all the institutions of the society, while women have suffered from various forms of discriminations designed in the name of religion, tradition, values and honor.

Though there have been marked changes in the position of women since the first human societies, still there are many women in the world who suffer from the deprivation of rudimentary human rights. The rise of individual liberty, democracy and the concept of human rights have brought considerable changes and have enabled women to participate in social and political lives to a great extent.

Unfortunately, this rise in the position of the women can not be observed in all the societies of the contemporary world and there are regular instances of discrimination against women. These sorts of discriminations are mostly found in the societies that are not based on the principles of true democracy and are autocratic or even tribal and feudal.

In such societies almost all the people who are not a part of the ruling elite suffer from different sorts of discriminations and as women happen to be one of the weaker strata of society therefore they are affected more than the other strata. Moreover, strict forms of religious values have also been responsible in keeping the women subjugated and deprived.

The so called religious scholars in the name of their own version and definition of Islamic principles have restricted the women in the boundary of their houses where they are just to serve the male members of the society and are not allowed to participate in the decision making process, even the decision regarding their own lives are not carried out in accordance to their consent and will. They are enchained in the vicious chains of family responsibilities and traditional values.

Though performing such duties as taking care of family and family members are not something to be abhorred or undervalued; but unfortunately in the response of performing such noble deeds they are not given their due rights in the society.

Nevertheless, the beauty of human societies is that they have been dynamic, with changes taking place every now and then; and making the societies evolve. The discriminations, injustices and shortcomings have always been identified in some way or the other and the discontents that have resulted from discriminations and injustices have resulted in mass movements that have changed the destiny of human world, and the human societies have kept on evolving.

Same has been happening with the position of women. There have been changes in this regard and there will be such changes in the future as well and the situation will keep on improving. An example in this regard can be cited of the Saudi Arabia. This country happens to be an autocratic country, with all the power lying in the Royal family. The country is strictly patriarchal and have limited role of women in society. It happens to be an example of true monarchy albeit in somewhat modern form.

The king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has granted permission that women can cast vote and run elections. So as per the permission the women in the country would be able to cast vote and run in the future municipal elections that is scheduled to be held in 2015.

For many in the world this piece of news would be weird as they would not expect that still there are societies that do not allow their women to cast vote, which is the basic political need of all the human beings.

However, this change, though may not solve the issues regarding the discrimination of women in the country, can really prove an important step towards the heightening position of women in the society. Saudi society is considered one of the societies with marked differences between the status of men and women. Women are deprived of even those needs, which are considered very basic in the modern democracies.

The entire Arab World is going through a political change marked by mass movements and agitations against the autocratic rulers and mostly in the favor of more representative form of government. Saudi Arabia can not stay away from these changes and there is some sort of pressure on the monarch in the country to introduce certain changes that can calm down the concerns developing in the minds of the people.

There have already been certain controversies in the country regarding the issue of women driving cars. So this particular step from the monarch does not only show that there are external influences but the internal movements for the rights of women, who seem to have realized that their position and role must be reassessed by the government in particular and the men in general.

In Hatoon al-Fassi's point of view, a professor of history and great supporter of the right of the women to vote, "There is the element of the Arab Spring, there is the element of the strength of Saudi social media, and there is the element of Saudi women themselves, who are not silent."

And in Fawaziah Bakr's point of view, a professor of education in Riyadh, "It is not something that will change the life of most women. We are now looking for even more. The Arab spring means that things are changing, that the political power has to listen to the people. The spring gave us a clear voice."

No doubt, the resonance of the Arab Spring is shaking the basic pillars of the authoritarian forms of governments and leading the societies or at least is expected to lead them towards democratic principles, which strive to achieve the basic human rights.

Women are an integral part of society and deserve these rights, as well. Unfortunately, they have been denied those rights in the name of the religion, tradition and honor. The time is now ripe that all the countries in the world must understand the value and dignity of women and give them their due rights and let them participate in social and political lives as per their will.

This particular step by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has to be appreciated and this should be considered as the first step towards a long journey towards a better and heightened position of women in the country and in the long run in the entire world.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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