Thursday, January 04, 2007

Saudi Arabia: May as well be Mars

I check out every once in a while just to see what life might be like on another planet. Or in the 7th century.

This article on women's issues is a case in point. The article crows about the advancements women have made in Saudi society, but even the author acknowledges there's a long way to go.

Here's one example of "advancement":
Also in January 2006, women finally celebrated being able to apply for and receive their personal ID without the consent of their male guardian as previously enforced for four years since women’s ID were first issued.
So, not only have women only been able to get their own ID card for four years, but only now can they get them without the consent of their "male guardian".

And here's a really weird one:
However, sometimes even when laws benefiting women are introduced at the official level and are then rejected or stalled at the social and administrative level. An example is the case of officials trying to open more doors of employment for women in accordance to ministry level decisions but facing resistance and objections from society. This was exemplified in the decision to allow women to work in lingerie shops.

The Ministry of Labor announced that it would enforce the decision starting June 18, 2006. Young unemployed women by the hundreds signed up for training in sales, store management and marketing at the JCCI and applied for jobs, but few shop owners offered them jobs or showed interest in accommodating them. They complained about the impracticality and extra expenses they had to endure to segregate the women employees from the men and to shield them from public view. Those who did accommodate women, faced angry objections from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for not implementing the segregation measures strictly enough even though the Labor Office had already permitted the measures taken by the stores.

Eventually the ministry withdrew its proposals and made the decision to employ women in the lingerie stores optional.
I've blogged about this bit of Arab weirdness before. If women aren't allowed to be around men who aren't their "legal guardian", just how do they shop for lingerie if there are no female lingerie sales staff? I guess they have to bring their husband, but then that sort of spoils the surprise of that naughty French niqab now, doesn't it?

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