Monday, 13 May 2013

"In the Land of Invisible Women"

Dr. Qanta Ahmed, the author of In the Land of Invisible Women wrote about the plight of women in Saudi, describing it as a case of abject sexism. Though most people are wont to believe that it has much to do with Islam, it truly isn’t. Islam as a religion does NOT advocate disrespect or discrimination of women – it is its interpretation by certain segments of society that leads to the continued prevalence of discrimination. Warlords and tribal communities embraced Islam in some of the earlier centuries. Despite embracing their religion, they allowed their culture to prevail in some sort of a bridled confluence with religion.

For instance, The Quran does not encourage Polygamy. It reads thus: "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice." This verse is said to have been revealed in the aftermath of a war, when there were too many widows and orphaned children that needed support and protection. But look at how this is being interpreted by those who don’t look at the Quran in the right way.

Among the many countries in the Islamic realm, Saudi Arabia stands tall as the country with the most hardliner stance that prevails in the society and political milieu against women. The country banned driving rights for women which was a move that was protested against in a great show of strength and courage, by Manal al-Sharif. What’s more, Saudi Arabia by law mandates that women are required to have a male guardian. They cannot vote, or stand for elections, though it appears that there is hope for change, in that King Abdullah has promised voting rights in the 2015 elections. Coupled with this are mandatory veiling and employment restrictions, educational restrictions and plenty of issues concerning marriage and rights over children and property. Though a dissected rendition of the legal system as it stands might be the right way to study the system, a cursory perusal itself is enough to reveal the overarching theme: that women are not given equal rights before the law. 

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