In yet another symbolic attempt at gaining some sort of representation in what can only be the dream of equal gender rights in Saudi Arabia, a group of women cut a rare sight at a voter registration office in Jeddah where they made some ‘unusual’ demands. Protesting against the male-only electoral system, these female activists demanded that women be granted the right to register to cast their votes in the upcoming local elections. However, no amount of protesting allowed these women to get through the wall that has become the traditional psyche in one of the most patriarchal societies in the world as they were ‘politely’ refused on the grounds that women did not have the right to vote and then were told to return home. The women had no other choice, as the next step would have been the summoning of the — a feared morality force.
In Saudi Arabia, women are not only not allowed to vote, they are forbidden to drive, they must be accompanied by a mehram at all times when out of the house and must clad themselves in an abbaya and veil. Some call the Kingdom one of the most backward and socially repressive orders in the world, where women are refused equal footing on nearly all levels of the societal structure. The holy marriage of religion and politics that has defined the rule of the House of Saud has seen women relegated to the back burner of all social progress. Despite all the high-rises, the rich financial systems and all the oil any country could ask for, women languish in the ‘poverty’ of isolation and the absence of political and social representation.
The world has moved forward by leaps and bounds where female emancipation is concerned, with women incrementally winning the right to vote, starting as far back as 1893 (New Zealand). Women’s suffrage has long been defined as the first barometer by which attainment of gender rights is measured. For the women of Saudi Arabia to still be languishing at the bottom rung of the rights ladder is abysmal. The House of Saud needs to move towards reform where women are concerned lest it be left behind in the ever-progressing quest to equip women with all they need to exist in a world based increasingly wedded to gender equality. – Dailytimes