Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Driving alone can't define Saudi women's rights

Opinion piece from the October 9, 2013 Arab News by Abdullateef al-Mulhim. A link to his article is here, and the text is pasted in below.

It appears to me as if the media across the globe have pledged to sensitize the masses on issues related to women. I have no problem with that. I appreciate the manner in which the media outlets are highlighting problems facing the womenfolk.

What gets my goat is the manner in which the international media portray Saudi women. People living outside the Kingdom have no idea what our women have achieved in a relatively short span of time.
Our women are no different from their counterparts elsewhere across the globe. They have the same needs.

Trust me; their behavioral patterns also are no different from any other woman living on the planet.
The international media and foreign commentators should also take into consideration cultural differences before writing or making any comment on Saudi society.

In the Kingdom, women are achieving great stature in government, industry, sports and the media. The number of female students in schools is exceeding the number of male students. Be it any profession, Saudi women are excelling and making their marks in that field. Domestic and foreign scholarships are offered to women without discrimination.

Some people claim that Saudi women are oppressed. Excuse me! There may be exceptions and it is very natural in any society. Even in the West, we read and hear about abusive husbands mistreating their women. Why generalize? Saudi society is no different. There are happy couples and there are unhappy couples.
I believe the only issue that really stirs a genuine debate around the world is driving. Yes, women in the Kingdom are not allowed to drive. I have a gut feeling that it is just a matter of time when the world will witness women drivers wading through traffic jams in the Kingdom.

But I think some people really blow this issue out of proportion. Is driving a car such a basic need? There are many Saudi women who if given the permission to drive will choose not to. We need to understand social patterns. There are hundreds of young Saudi women, married and single, attending schools across the globe. They have the freedom to drive but many of them don’t, especially the ones who are living in cities with good public transportation system. This is why there are more Saudi women who drive in the United States than in Europe. And the reason for that is the public transportation system in Europe is more extensive than the United States.

Nowadays, we see some Saudi women activists asking for their right to drive. And we agree with their demands, but some of these women are simply not helping the cause because their approach becomes questionable in Saudi society. I am sure other traditional societies in the east would also object to the way in which they are asking for their right to drive.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, this demand raises quite a few eyebrows just because many of the “activists” are living abroad.

I am sure if Saudi women are allowed to drive, a large number will choose not to.

People outside the Kingdom should realize that West is West and East is East and each country has its unique way of life. What can be implemented in a country is not necessary suitable for another and driving is an issue that will be solved and I think women will be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

And many women in Saudi Arabia say that the right to drive does not top their priority list. There are far more important social demands. The issue of driving can be solved in one day. But other issues such as unemployment or women abuse are far more complicated and needs immediate attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment