Saudi Women Petitioning For The End Of Female Oppression On Int’l Women’s Day


It seems fitting that on International Women’s Day 2014, women around the world are using this as an excuse to speak up for injustice and for change.

Saudi Arabia is a country where women’s rights are highly restrictive, and it is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. By Law. That’s insane. But True.

There have been many protests by female activists in the kingdom who want the laws to be changed, and these protests have been getting a lot of attention by global media. However the law has not changed, and the women who staged a protest on October 26, 2013 in the capital city Riyadh were forced by police to sign a paper saying they would not do this again, and were only allowed to be escorted home when their husbands arrived.

Today, female activists in Saudi Arabia are petitioning the country’s consultative council to demand an end to the absolute male dominance over women in the country.

Activist Aziza Yousef told AFP news agency on Sunday that “rights activists have petitioned the Shura (consultative) Council on the occasion of the International Women’s Day [on March 8] demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women”. Part of the petition also included measures to protect women’s rights.

“Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorization of their male guardians.It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.” says Al Jazeera online.


Aziza Yousef points out that these ridiculous restrictions on women aren’t even based on religious teachings! If they were going to cite religious reasons, then it would be a good idea for them to remember the Prophet Muhammad allowed strong women in Islam. His first wife was apparently a businesswomen, and his second fought in battles.

Journalist Maha Akeel is a frequent critic of her government’s sexist laws. She has said: “Look, we are not asking for … women’s rights according to Western values or lifestyles … We want things according to what Islam says. Look at our history, our role models.”

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is ranked 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity according to a World Economic Forum Gender Gap report from 2009, they have had a major political boost from King Abdullah himself. In 2015 women for the first time in that country will be allowed to run in local elections as well as for the Consulative Assembly. While that is only a year away, women need rights today.

There have been specific health cases where women needed urgent attention, but paramedics couldn’t get access to the building where the injured woman was because there was no male guardian. In some instances women have died due to the fallout of these laws.

The Shura Council is presided over by 150 males, who were the very men who denied the proposal given to them in October 2013 by female activists, asking for the right to drive in their own country. Here’s the other downside to the council, they are appointed by the king and advise the monarch on policy, but they cannot legislate.

However they are highly influential, so they unfortunately are the gatekeepers to new legislation protecting and prospering the rights of women. While international women’s day is certainly a time for recognition of the great strides we are making in all sectors across the globe, there is much work to be done.

We want to take this moment to recognize the women who are braving the odds (including death in some cases) in the name of freedom. We cannot just expect others to take up the cause, we can all do our part. Spread awareness, speak up, share stories and help wherever possible.



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