Gender Inequality in Saudi Arabia
by Elizabeth on February 8, 2016 - 9:40pm
As of the 2015 municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, women have officially been given the right to vote and run for office (Batrawy). This country has been progressively growing out of its male-dominant mindset in this modern age, allowing for the “gender apartheid” to slowly degenerate (Manea). However, because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia goes by the Qur’an as a model for their laws, strict gender expectations still apply nonetheless. From the point of view of the Western world, where both freedom of religion and gender equality have been points of importance in recent history, Saudi Arabia appears to be a late bloomer. Here, we will explore Canada’s Western worldview in comparison to the Saudi Arabian worldview, and how they have both been journeying to an equal society.
In Canada, it was only in 1940 that women across the country could vote in provincial elections, as Quebec became the last province to agree on allowing women the right to vote (Jackel). Much of the delay had to do with the Church being affiliated with the government, and the many citizens who argued that there’s a place for both genders; there was no need to overlap duties. As of 2011, Canada has over 90 religions being practiced, and a significant amount of immigrants, building quite the multi-cultural country (Statistics Canada). However, most all Saudi Arabian citizens practice the Muslim religion, and with their constitution being the Qur’an, this reinforces any laws and practices held by their faith (Cole).
In comparison, Canada’s gender equality problems in the early 1900’s and Saudi Arabia’s gender equality problems today seem to be somewhat on the same level. Women in Saudi Arabia have been very restricted for the longest time: they are not allowed to drive, travel to foreign countries without the permission of their male guardian, must depend on the males in their life to conduct all business affairs, cannot mix with men in public environments (Cole), and among other things, must wear specific garments (called abaya) at all times when men are present (Dawson). There has only been the influence of a more modern worldview recently, what with women’s right to vote and run for office.
By comparing Saudi Arabia’s worldview to a Western worldview such as Canada’s, we are lead to the question: how can religion find its place in society without jeopardizing human rights and freedoms? Are human rights in fact universal? Saudi Arabia’s faith is embedded into their everyday life, so it does reflects each citizen, whereas Canada is more culturally diverse, and has freedom of religion, meaning there are multiple reflections of citizens. If one perception of a human right grows from one worldview, it doesn’t mean it’s of any lesser value than another, their opinions and laws are simply coming from a different perspective. Even though Saudi Arabia has only come to the practice of a more egalitarian worldview recently, this shouldn’t stifle them from progressing at the same speed as the rest of the world.
Batrawy, Aya. "Saudi Voters Elect 20 Women in Municipal Elections That Allowed Female Voters and Candidates for the First Time." Saudi Voters Elect 20 Women in Municipal Elections That Allowed Female Voters and Candidates for the First Time. The Montreal Gazette, 13 Dec. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
Cole, Donald Powell. "Saudi Arabia." Culture of Saudi Arabia. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
Dawson, Michael. "Saudi Arabia-Reflections on Women's Rights and Gender Equality by Michael Dawson." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
Jackel, Susan. "Women's Suffrage." The Canadian Encyclopedia. 08 June 2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2016
Manea, Elham. "Gefangen in Einem System Der Gender-Apartheid." Qantara.de. 24 Dec. 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.
Statistics Canada. "2011 National Household Survey." Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 99-010-X2011032. 07 Jan. 2016. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.