Monday, April 21, 2008

The Sorry State of Saudi Women

The BBC runs a series on Saudi Arabia. The most recent focuses on a report by Human Rights Watch. Article here Here is a quote: "It's astonishing that the Saudi government denies adult women the right to make decisions for themselves but holds them criminally responsible for their actions at puberty."

A couple of weeks ago I had some visitors in my class. One of them was a man from Saudi Arabia, a student learning English and will probably be enrolled in our University next semester. He spent a week in my class. One of the topics I covered was "How Different are the Sexes?" Afterward he came up and spoke to me. He was quite bothered by my presentation. He said, in essence, that women were inferior to men. I asked him what his authority for such a statement was. He cited biology texts, religious texts, etc. I asked him what he thought about the sociological concept of sexism we had covered. He didn't seem to get it. To him, it wasn't a matter of justifying unequal treatment, women were to be treated as inequals.

How do we justify our relationship with this country when it treats its women this way? Yes, I am a multiculturalist, without any problem. But, there are limits to everything. And the situation of women in Saudi Arabia is not defensible in today's world.

We ignored the Taliban in Afghanistan to our deep regret. What is the difference between the Taliban and the current Saudi treatment of women?

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