Tag Archive | "Women’s Rights"

One In Seven


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From David Anthony Hohol…

I’m a middle-aged guy who is mostly happy with his life choices and how things are going so far. That being said, it’s often forgotten not all of us have the privilege of self-determination. What would my life be if I were a girl, born in one of the world’s many  developing countries? The one thing I do know, the only thing I know for sure, is how I feel about my life would be very different. Recognize the rights that those before you fought for; keep in mind those who live in parts of the world who have yet to receive them.

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City Of Women


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5667462218_211da561df_bFrom Saudi Arabian Corespondent Eman Al Naafjan…

This past decade unemployment in Saudi has kept increasing despite the several plans and projects made by the education ministry, civil services and the ministry of labor. Numbers vary from one source to another with government research usually being the smaller of the bunch. But even the government’s numbers are considerably high. The latest official number for male unemployment is 10.5%. The annual flooding in of a million migrant workers into the country who are willing to work longer for less exacerbates this state of affairs. A recent report by the ministry of labor states that for every Saudi employed this past year in the private sector, there were thirteen expatriates hired.

Saudi women fare much worse with an official unemployment rate of 29.6%. Other official estimates are that over 78% of those graduating from college are unemployed. Four years ago the press got ahold on the number of applicants to 218 positions at the Princess Noura University and it was over 40,000! That’s about 200 applicants per vacancy. I analyzed some of the reasons why back then.

Last year when the Arab Spring sparks were flying within Saudi, the government started an unemployment program called Hafiz (meaning encouragement or boost). The minister of labor, Adel Fakieh gave a PowerPoint presentation at his office in Riyadh which David Ottaway wrote about in an enlightening report on his 2012 visit to Saudi:

Fakieh began by taking issue with the Central Department of Statistics estimate that the number of unemployed Saudis was only 448,000. He reported that more than two million Saudis had applied for the $533 monthly unemployment allowance under the government’s new social security Hafiz Program launched last year. Those who would finally meet the necessary criteria would probably total slightly more than one million, he said, disclosing that his ministry had discovered that 85 percent of those applying were women. “Hundreds of thousands” of housewives had applied, but he claimed they were not “real job seekers.” Many were well off financially, did not really want to work, or would only accept certain kinds of jobs, according to their applications. This explained why the government intended to accept only about half of the two million applicants. Those accepted would have to prove they were really looking for employment and be ready to accept training and take offered jobs. If not, they would be dropped from the program after one year.

I don’t know about Fakeih’s “many were well off financially” part, considering that the average two-income Saudi family earns only 8,000 riyals (2,133USD) and has to pay 30% to 35% of that for rent. Add that statistic to another presented by the head of the real estate commission in the Eastern Region that 70% of Saudis do not own their houses and you’ve got a pretty humble picture that does not quite mesh with Fakeih’s “many were well off” but still applied for unemployment benefits.

Hafiz remains a great program although I’ve seen many upset on social media that the benefits expire in a year’s time and that a person on these benefits has to make weekly updates to show that they are actively seeking a job.

Hafiz was not the only project introduced in last year’s decrees. Another much more groundbreaking development was that women were finally allowed to work openly in retail at malls. Before then, the only public spaces women were allowed to sell products at were on mats on the sides of the curb at souks. For a few months now it has been legal for women to work as cashiers at supermarkets and sales-persons at lingerie and make-up counters but many sheikhs still can’t get used to the sight.

Last June two Saudi lawyers and a businessman won a case at the Board of Grievances to abort the royal decree allowing women to work openly in malls and return Saudi to a time when women could only work in retail if the shop front was completely covered and only women clients allowed in. Fortunately and unusually our wacky system worked for women this time and the ministry of labor seems so far to have ignored the Board of Grievances decision. That’s why over the past couple of weeks, envoys of ultra conservative sheikhs, fifty at a time, have been going to the ministry demanding to see the minister to remind him about the Board of Grievances decision and to demand a return to extreme gender segregation policies.

Some of the alternatives that ultra-conservatives have proposed as a means of income for women are that all Saudi women be granted a governmental stipend to stay home, initiation of programs where women can work from home and the opening of women-only malls, factories, hospitals…etc.

At first look it seems that one of those alternatives is seeing the light of day some time in the near future. Last week it came out that the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) is planning a half million square meters industrial city near Hofuf. The industrial city is inaccurately being touted as women-only by some news media. The announcement was actually made by the general director of Modon, Salah Al-Rasheed. In an interview with Al-Eqtasadiyah newspaper, Al-Rasheed explained that the industrial city would provide Saudis with 10,000 jobs, of which half will be targeted towards women. Another way that this project will be helping women is through making women investments easier. Al-Rasheed goes on to say that it will be located close to Hofuf so that transportation will be accessible to women. Nowhere within the interview or available firsthand information does it state that the industrial city is planned to be a full-blown women only metropolitan. So I wonder why international journalists are making it out to be that?

From Modon’s website and Al-Rasheed’s interview, it’s apparent that the “women” part comes from the novelty of having women allowed on a manufacturing site and not that it will be completely operated from A to Z by women. In a country where the Highest Islamic Council has on it’s website a fatwadiscouraging people from allowing women to specialize in scientific fields and where the number of women who have experience in industry is somewhere around zero, it wouldn’t be business-savvy to open a whole industrial city for women. It would be basically opening a ghost town and burning millions of dollars.

These women industrial cities (I say cities because the one in Hofuf is the first of several that are being planned for across the kingdom) are going to be industrial areas just outside major cities where Saudi women can apply for jobs in designated buildings to do what Al-Rasheed called “light and clean parts of manufacturing in an appropriate environment.”

The reaction so far within Saudi has been quiet. This is because these types of projects take several years to be built and started up. The ultra-conservatives are currently too busy chasing female cashiers and sales-women to question or even advocate for the industrial city. The only reaction so far was from Ms. Olfat Kabbani, deputy director of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Kabbanni expressed her reservations about the project. She told Okaz newspaperthat the real need is to right now provide training, remove legal obstacles and encourage investors to integrate women into their workforce.

According to Modon’s website, there are already “more than 3,000 factories in the existing industrial cities with investments exceeding 250 billion riyals, and more than 300,000 employees.” I wonder how many of those 300,000 employees are Saudis? And why can’t women apply today to work in these 3,000 factories? Aren’t there any “light and clean parts of manufacturing in an appropriate environment” at any of them?

You can listen to me repeat much of what I wrote above HERE.

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Living in Denial


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From Saudi Arabia Corespondent Eman Al Nafjan…

The ministry of justice was provoked this week by an outspoken piece by Dr. Badriya Al Bishr to issue a statement to the same newspaper where Al Bishr’s piece was published. Al Bishr criticized the white washing of the Saudi justice system that took place at the International Association of Lawyers 55th Congress in Miami. There, the minister of Justice, prof. Mohammed Al Eissa gave a talk on the justice system in Saudi Arabia. According to local papers his talk mostly constituted a presentation on how wonderful and just the Saudi justice system. The papers reported that among other things he stated that the Saudi justice system does not discriminate between men and women when it comes to rights and obligations. The audacity of making such a statement at an international conference by no less than the minister of justice himself seriously makes me wonder if this whole thing is all my head. Did I imagine that a few weeks ago a Saudi woman was sentenced to ten lashes for driving her own car and that only a pardon from the king spared her the punishment? Is Najla Hariri’s upcoming trial for driving her car a figment of my imagination? How about that the ministry of justice refuses to issue licenses to women to practice law and won’t even recognize the title of lawyer for women who have obtained licenses abroad, did that change overnight?

AlBishr is apparently having the same delusions as I am, since she pointed out how sexist the ministry is when it comes to sentencing in homicide cases. If women are charged with murdering their spouse, it’s an automatic death sentence while men who murder their wives are dealt with much more leniently. AlBishr cites the recent case of a man who ran over his wife because she would not give him her salary. The murder was committed in daylight, in front of the woman’s family home and in front of several witnesses and yet the man was only sentenced to 12 years in prison. Another case that I recall is one where a man decapitated his wife in front of their toddler and was originally sentenced to only five years in prison then revised to 15.

AlBishr also notes the irony in that the minister’s talk coincided with news that a teacher at an elementary school has reached out to activists concerning the weddings of two of her students during Hajj break. The third and fourth grade girls were scheduled to be married off to adult men at the same time that the minister was giving his talk in Miami. To say that there is no gender discrimination in the Saudi justice system is an outright denial of the truth. However the ministry in issuing its statement today has shown that it is persistent in this denial even at the national level.

In the statement, the head of the ministry’s press office, Ibrahim AlTayyer, mostly took offence with the part of AlBishr’s column that raised the issue of child marriages. He states that according to ministry studies the number of child marriages are not high enough to consider it a phenomenon in Saudi. Though he did not mention what number would be enough for the ministry to act nor more importantly disclose the number of child marriages that was documented in those studies. To me one child marriage is enough to issue a law however it is obviously much more than that. According to an interview with AlRiyadh Newspaper on Jan/22/2010, a sociologist, Dr. Al Johara Mohammed, states that “among us there are more than 3000 Saudi girls aged no more than 13 years married to men in the age of their parents or grandparents”. Are 3000 cases of pedophilia not a signficant enough number for our ministry? How about that an anonymous source within the ministry itself informed AlWatan Newspaper on Oct/15/2010 that in the Eastern region alone, during the previous year, 40 cases of child marriages were stopped via verbal unofficial instructions. The number of child marriages that were approved however was not mentioned in that article, only an interview with a girl who was a victim of child marriages.

AlTayyer went on to state that regardless of the ministry’s position on child marriages, it is not within its governmental jurisdiction to issue a law consigning a minimum age for marriage. If it’s not the ministry of justice’s jurisdiction, than whose is it? The Shura council when they were discussing the implementation of a child protection system, refused to officially recognize child marriages as a form of child abuse. Their reasoning was a bla bla bla argument on the semantics of child and minor.

The remarkable thing is that there is a widespread consensus among Saudis that child marriages should be banned. Members of the royal family, religious scholars, high ranking government officials and celebrities have all spoken out against it. Yet you can tell from AlTayyer’s statement that simply issuing a law that sets a minimum age for marriage is not going to happen in the forseeable future.

Maybe this is due to the hold that fundamentalists have on the Saudi government. A member of the highest religious council, sheikh AlFowzan, wrote in Okaz newspaper last July that child marriages should not be banned and warns that if we do ban them God will punish us by inflicting us with wars and plagues. A sentiment echoed yesterday by a Saudi woman columnist, Fatima Al Faqih. Besides the usual disputed argument that the Prophet (PBUH) married one of his wives when she was only six and consummated it when she was nine, she reasons that since girls for centuries were able to physically survive child marriages then the scientific argument against child marriages is de facto disproven.

Regarding those who claim that we should not abolish child marriages because the prophet (pbuh) consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was nine, this has been repeatedly proven inconsistent with historian records. This is discussed and you can read more about it in English. Besides the historical inconsistency, it’s also inconsistent with the prophet’s behavior since all his other wives were not only adult women but also divorcees and widows. And if we were to go with the fundamentalist argument that we should not ban anything that isn’t banned by the Qur’an than slavery should be legalized and sexual intercourse between a master and his female slaves as well. Both should be considered completely legal if we were to solely go upon the text of the Qur’an. Yet the government has abolished slavery and intercourse is only legal within the confines of marriage. So why can’t we abolish child marriages in the same way?

On a final note, in the local papers on the minister’s talk at the Miami conference, it is reported that the President of the International Association of Lawyers, Pascal Maurer, was impressed by the Saudi judicial system and hoped that the law system would be made accessible to the international community so that they could benefit.

I could not find any report of Prof. AlEissa’s talk in American or international press.

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A Saudi Woman Is…


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From Saudi Arabia Corespondent Eman Al Nafjan…

In Saudi Arabia my gender decides whether or not I can enter certain ministries, what I can major in college and if I can name my own child.

My gender mandates that I cannot drive my own car. No matter what age I am or how well I drive, I have to find a male to drive my car.

If I were divorced, a widow or simply had a husband that was out of the country at the time, my gender dictates that I have to find a male relative to obtain a birth certificate and document my child’s name at government circles.

My gender also mandates whether I can freely leave the country or not. As a woman, if I need to travel, I am at the mercy of my father and husband. At the airport I am stopped and required to show an official yellow card from the Saudi Interior Ministry that states that my husband has granted me permission to travel. If I fail to provide it, then I’m escorted out of the airport and told to go home and convince my husband.

My husband can legally divorce me without reason, without my presence and without my knowledge.

In public schools, from the age of twelve, girls are forced to cover their faces completely with not even a slit for their eyes as they enter and leave the strictly girls only schools.

All restaurants cannot allow women in unless they have a separate entrance and area for them to sit in.

All of these rules are not only socially or culturally enforced but legally as well. So that no matter how much our society may move forward and general awareness is raised, the laws pull us back. This legal and governmental factor makes it extremely difficult for forward thinking women to demand change. If I drive my car as a woman, I am not only breaking a social taboo but also entering into a discussion of whether or not I’m breaking the law and challenging the government. This is what has led to the nine-day imprisonment of Manal Al Sharif. One of the accusations presented against her by government officials is driving a car while female within a city and inciting other women to do the same. Just last week another Saudi woman was sentenced to ten lashes for driving a car in a city. The king soon pardoned her, but it remains a fact that a judge can do that.

A member of the highest Islamic council, Sheikh Al Manea, reasons that it is justified to sentence a woman to physical punishment or imprisonment for driving a car, not because she drove the car per se but because she broke the law. These types of arguments are what makes it particularly difficult for the women rights movement in Saudi Arabia. The argument that you are not only breaking a social, cultural or even religious taboo but also going against the government and legal system can be a powerful deterrent to Saudi women who need to speak up for their rights.

A few months ago, the aforementioned Manal Al Sharif, spearheaded a movement to get Saudis used to the idea of a woman behind the steering wheel. July 17th was set as the day when Saudi women would start to drive themselves to work or school rather than rely on a male driver. The purpose was that from that day and onwards more and more women would slowly gain the courage to drive. At the same time Saudi society in general would gradually get used to the sight of women driving. Unfortunately that was not how it worked out. A couple of weeks before July 17th, Manal Al Sharif was arrested.

On the day itself there was a heavy police presence on all the main streets. Despite these obstacles, a few brave women drove their cars. I was fortunate enough to be able to be a part of it, even though Ive never learned to drive. I got into the car with another Saudi woman, Azza Al Shmasi. As I videotaped, she drove for 15 minutes close to a main street in Riyadh. When I got home I excitedly shared the video with my followers on Twitter, as did all the women who drove that day. Then for the next few weeks, more and more women drove and uploaded videos. It seemed as though we were making progress.

Unfortunately our progress was severely halted when several of the women who took part started receiving phone calls from the interior ministry and getting trial dates. I started receiving calls from the investigation unit at the Interior Ministry about a month after the last time I got into the car with Azza. In the beginning it seems as if they had made the assumption that my husband does not support me in my fight for women rights. They asked to speak to him, as though they did not have his full details right there in my file. This tactic of threatening women with informing their male guardians might have worked decades ago but Saudi society has evolved past that. The overwhelming majority of women who went out to drive have the full support of their immediate families. After two weeks of these harassing phone calls, my husband was called to the ministry. He refused to sign the pledge that he would make sure that I would not drive or upload videos of driving. The phone calls stopped. However, another Saudi woman, Najla Hariri has not been as fortunate. After her phone calls and visit to the interior ministry, she is currently awaiting a trial.

Here we were, fighting for the simple and basic right to drive our own cars. So we were surprised when King Abdullah surpassed all these rights that we had been fighting for and granted women not only the vote but also the right to be nominated as candidates in the 2015 municipal elections. The king also announced that women would be included in his appointed parliament. These changes are huge breakthroughs in the fight for womens rights, however they remain far in the future and have no effect on the day to day life of Saudi women today. They have however enraged many of our sheikhs. One such sheikh is Shiekh Allehiedan, another member of the Saudi highest Islamic council. He came out on TV to state that the king had not consulted with him before these announcements and that he is more protective of the country and its Sharia constitution than the king himself. Other extreme conservatives have also made a point of stating their unhappiness with these announcements. A worrying but unsurprising development; the extreme conservative have had a hold on the country from its very beginning. A partnership between the government and the mosque that is gradually growing sour because of the failure of both in reining in the peoples demands for their freedom and rights.

Many people fail to realize how relatively new Saudi Arabia is. It was not declared a country until 1932, so it is only about 80 years old. It is about 5 times the size of Germany. Our first king, King Abdulaziz, managed to unify this vast desert land despite the different cultures and even religious Islamic sects of its people. Then with the discovery of oil, led our dispersed people into building one of the more prosperous countries of the world.

Unlike the majority of our neighbors we were not colonized so we did not have a western law system imposed upon us. We had to start with the tools we had at the time; Arab tribal law and religion. Starting as we did from square one in the modern world makes for some interesting challenges. Condensing hundreds of years of evolvement of national law, civilian rights and freedom in a few decades. From that perspective, it is not hard to understand how we have come to have all these modern amenities and yet live a lifestyle that is reminiscent of medieval times.

As a Saudi woman, I understand all this. I also understand how exotic Saudi women are to the rest of the world. Our abayas and culture are a more subtle form of the same exoticism of the Padaung tribe where women wore neck bracelets that made them look giraffe necked. Despite how uncomfortable it looked and how much it affected their lives, it seemed to outsiders as though they were proud of their heritage and wanted to maintain it by passing it on to future generations. However when human rights organizations dug beneath the surface they found that it was face, politics and economics that were forcing this tradition on women who wanted better for themselves and their daughters.

Although we don’t wear our niqabs because we need to draw tourists, we still have in common with these Burmese women that a combination of face, politics and economics have constricted our freedom and put many unnecessary obstacles in the path of our happiness. Arab traditions and culture have dictated the most extreme governmentally enforced environment of gender discrimination. So much so that these factors have resulted in the creation of the only gender apartheid in todays world.
As a Saudi woman, I understand all this, yet; somehow it does not alleviate my frustration at how my country’s history has such an impact on my day-to-day life.

 

This is the English original version I wrote and was translated to German and published in the new print edition of Stern magazine no41/2011, Thursday, 6th of October, pages 54-57

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Back In Time


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From Saudi Arabia Corespondent Eman Al Nafjan…

These past couple of weeks have convinced me that the government has made a huge scientific discovery, the time machine, and is now using it to pull the whole country back into the eighties. The King’s decrees, which included a generous package for the ultra-conservatives and gave absolute  impunity to the senior clerics council from media criticism, were just an indication of what was coming. Since then, it has been made official instead of being just a religious recommendation; women are banned by law from working as cashiers. This was due to a complaint and proposal by sheikh Yusuf Al Ahmed to the Interior Ministry.

A forum, “Women and Development”, on March 13th here in Riyadh called on the authorities to grant women incentives and stipends to encourage them to stay at home, and to push forward early retirement by reducing service to just 15 years. Also they suggested a special system of part time work just for women and to  limit their hospital work to women only wards and ER.

The only moderate muttawa in the PVPV, Dr. Ahmed Al Ghamdi, has been relieved of his post as head of the Makkah PVPV division. He was the only PVPV member who stated openly that women are allowed in Islam to not cover their faces and that there is no such thing as extreme gender segregation in Islam. The latter view is also shared and researched in depth by another high official in the ministry of Justice, Shiekh Eissa Al Ghaith.

Yesterday the interior ministry has announced (ambiguously) that over five thousand detainees were released in the past after they repented from terrorism and others are awaiting trial. Why was this statement made now though? Many of those in political prisons in Saudi were arrested because they belonged to the same ultra-conservative group in the eighties and nineties that produced people like Osama Bin Laden. The free ultra-conservatives are currently apolitical and have focused their energy on the safe and easy misogyny trend except when it comes to the matter of their imprisoned brothers. So this statement can be categorized as of more of the aforementioned appeasement of the ultra-conservatives. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a huge leap forward and I completely support and celebrate their release. Imprisoning anyone without a clear case and fair trial only creates more terrorism. I just hope that the human rights activist Mikhlif Al Shammary would also be released.

Another blast from the past is that women again will be banned from voting. The municipality elections were announced to start on April 23rd and it was confirmed that women will be completely excluded from the process. For a country that states that it’s constitution is the Quran, excluding women does not fit in with the statement; the Prophet (PBUH) and later caliphs took pledges of leadership (very close to the concept of voting)  from both women and men. These are the second elections to take place in the kingdom, and the first excluded women too under the pretense that the logistics of including women and avoiding gender mingling would postpone the elections too long. This was six years ago, and all these years obviously have not been enough time to prepare for the impossible task of actually treating women as full citizens.

I  prefer to end on a happy note. The Saudi Women Revolution is now a healthy cooing toddler.  A group of women headed by one of Saudi’s biggest women rights activists Dr. Hatoon Al Fasi have decided to start their own municipalities parallel to the government’s.  If only we would start parallel cities where women can enjoy their full rights, I bet more and more Saudis will want to move there until the parallel becomes the majority and the current status becomes a margin.

Also this video is a actually a collaboration between a multi generational group of Saudi women who prefer to remain anonymous for now but are currently planning and working towards a bigger online presence.

I can’t wait until the women revolution here hits it’s teen growth spurt.

Finally, in case you missed it, the BBC had an excellent video documentary and radio show on Saudi women. I’m featured in both but more so on the radio show.

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My Favorite Daydream


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From Saudi Arabia Corespondent Eman Al Nafjan…

If you’re sick and tired of reading my posts on lifting the women driving ban, don’t go any further. I’m sick of it too. I truly believed that by now some sort of change would have happened. Around April there were all these strong rumors and alleged leaks that the ban would be lifted by September. October is almost over and nothing has happened except the fact that over the summer everybody was quiet in anticipation. Maybe that was the whole aim of all that talk and those articles earlier; so that the country could take a break from people like me nagging.

Over the break, instead of spilling my frustrations over the ban on the blog, I would daydream. Different scenarios would go through my head. Images of Saudi women rediscovering their capabilities and humanity, finally being able to move freely. And the wonderful practicalities of saving money on not having to import foreign men, put them up and pay them wages. Not having to pay for twice the gas because now you can park your car rather than have the driver go home. Not having to see a stranger’s shoulders tense up because of what music you play in your own car. No longer hearing about women forced to stay home or fired because of transportation issues. Stories about women paying most of their salaries to the driver, just so they could get to work would become part of our country’s collective memory.

Then the what ifs set in. What if they don’t lift the ban by September? What if they never lift the ban? What could I do? I could go all Ghandi, and starve myself until they do. I would document every day on the blog until finally I post something like: “no longer hungry…experiencing out of body sensations”. And still they wouldn’t lift the ban. Of course when I tell my friends this, they say “Eman besides it being silly, honey you’ve never been able to stick to a diet, not even for your wedding day. The only way you would starve is if you really couldn’t find food”. Sadly, they’re right. I can’t think of anything else though. So while I chop and sauté the perquisite onions (الكشنة) for all Saudi dishes, I ponder the questions of when it will happen, how wonderful it would be and what I could do to help it happen sooner.

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Another Day, Another Act of Misogyny


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From Saudi Arabia Corespondent Eman Al Nafjan…

Yesterday afternoon a document went viral all across the online news agencies and social media. The document is dated Sunday the 31st of October and in it is a fatwa and not just any fatwa, an official fatwa from the governmentally appointed committee for fatwas i.e. the highest council of our ultra conservative version of Sunni Islam. What’s so important that this committee would get together and issue a document and on the very same day release it to the press? Women, of course! A quick translation of the document:

This fatwa is issued in reply to the below question:

Several companies and shops are employing women as cashiers who serve both men and women as families. Each day these women cashiers meet dozens of men, and speak to them while handling back and forth money and receipts. In addition these women cashiers are required to undergo training, attend meetings and interact with their colleagues and supervisor at work. What is the ruling on women working as such? What is the ruling regarding companies and shops that recruit women? Please advise.ddi

After study, the committee has come to the following reply:

It is not permitted for a Muslim woman to work in a place where they intermingle with men. A woman should stay away from places where men gather. She should search for employment that does not expose her to temptation nor make her a source of temptation. And what you have mentioned in your question does expose her to temptation and tempt men, hence it is Islamically prohibited. And the companies that employ women are collaborating with them in what is Islamically prohibited and thus they too are committing a prohibition. It is known that whoever fears God by leaving what God has prohibited and does what God asks of him, God will then facilitate his affairs, just as promised in the Quran (translation* verse 3/Al Talaq):

{And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.}

And the Prophet PBUH said: It will not be that you abandon something for the sake of God, but that God will compensate with what is better for you.

(my translation)

There is a glimmer of hope here though. First off, this council, throughout its history, has prohibited things that remain legal, such as music and satellite TV channels that are not Islamic. So this fatwa might join the list of things that Saudis feel unwarrantedly guilty about but still do. It would be a shame if another door closes in the faces of women who are in desperate need of jobs.

A scan of the document:

*Yusuf Ali translation

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Little Girls Lost


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From Saudi Arabia Corespondent Eman Al Nafjan…

I’ve been wanting to write this post all day but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I wanted to write about how frustrated and sad I am, but what does it matter how I feel standing as a helpless onlooker, reading these horror stories about 10, 12 and 13 year olds being legally and openly married (read sold off) to men decades their seniors. I’ve gone through all the emotions and now I’m weary of the nightmare scenarios going through my head as I imagine what these poor children are going through. So let me just state the facts:

In Najran, a city in the south of Saudi a thirteen year old girl was married off to a man in his fifties. Everyone in the family opposed the marriage including the girl’s grandfather and uncle but nothing could be done to stop it. According to a family member, the father went through with is because he wanted to use her a dowry for a new car.

In another case, a sheikh, Saeed Al Jaleel, has come out saying that a couple of years back he was asked to marry a 10 year old girl to a 34 year old man. He tried to stop the marriage. He spoke to the girl’s mother to try to get her to object, he tried to convince the father not to go through with it but they both insisted. His hands were tied since there are no regulations, and he married them.

And finally you have this story in Arab News:

NAJRAN: A marriage official (mazoun) in the southern city of Najran has told a local Arabic daily that he had married a minor girl who is barely 12 years old and consummated their marriage after only two and a half months….”When my mother insisted I consummate my marriage, I had to summon up the courage for two weeks before I was able to have sex with her,” he said. He said when he first saw her, he was shocked by her fragility and added that he spent a long time trying to understand how to treat her.”

Since reforms have started the only thing that has been implemented is that women can book into a hotel without a male guardian’s permission. A small step but now the time is ripe for criminalizing wedlock pedophilia. And don’t give me that line that the prophet PBUH married Aisha when she was 9 years old. That’s disputed and historians have shown that she was actually 19.

So many Saudis tired and upset about these stories, including members of the royal family. A huge campaign and petition organized by one of the biggest women magazines in the Middle East, Sayidaty, and signed by icons and leaders, all this and nothing to show for it.

Women are still considered legally minors no matter how old they are, banned from driving, and at the mercy of their guardians when it comes to education, work, marriage, divorce and child custody.

We need laws to instate our rights as human beings and protect our daughters from these horrors.

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Posted in Home Page, Saudi WomanComments (8)


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