I really try my best to present a balanced view of Saudi Arabia, but there are certain times when some issues just drive me batty. Gender segregation here is taken to such an extreme here that it tends to create many more problems than those they are trying to resolve - not to mention making Saudi Arabia look like an absurdly backward place where men are not held accountable for their actions, and the blame and punishment is usually aimed at women. Weddings are segregated affairs, restaurants have separate entrances and dining areas for families and single men, even many private family gatherings I've attended have been segregated.
|At a local mall event, notice how the men and women are mostly segregated, left and right.|
Is this way of dress alone not enough of a barrier?
When I first moved to Saudi Arabia five years ago, there were no women working in sales positions in stores or malls - because they weren't allowed to. In fact most women in the kingdom were restricted to working in female only educational facilities or in the medical field, where mostly foreign women have been permitted to work as nurses or lab techs side by side with men. Saudi women in medicine generally are doctors or researchers.
|Nowadays Saudi women work in lingerie shops. Men can only enter these shops when accompanied by female family members.|
It was bad enough – and downright creepy - that women here in Saudi Arabia were forced until recently to purchase their undies from men, when the women organized and demanded that women be put in these types of sales positions, including lingerie and cosmetics shops. Their voices were heard and the King ordered that these salesmen be replaced with women. It was a huge victory for women in Saudi Arabia. This eventually led to women being employed in supermarkets, department stores, and women’s clothing shops.
|Saudi female cashiers in the supermarket chain HyperPanda here in Jeddah|
|Why is it okay for this type of gender interaction, but not when the female is the one behind the counter?|
In a group discussion about this new development to prevent gender mixing in the workplace, one participant said: For a country with such high religiosity, it appears that the Saudi adult citizens cannot be trusted to behave with morals and manners in the most basic social and community settings. I call this a RED FLAG ... Obviously something is desperately wrong. When people are raised with such strict religious laws, norms / values and the government's actions repeatedly imply that Saudi citizens lack basic self-control and are not capable of social interaction with the opposite sex for fear of combustible consensual sexual intercourse, molestation, or rape ... Where else in the world does such a problem exist? Seriously! What is taking place in Saudi society and its institutions that would cause the Saudi government to assume that its citizens' behaviors are so spiritually bankrupt?
|Is it better for Saudi women to just beg instead of working a real job?|
So exactly what has prompted this move from the Ministry of Labor? Since women began working in other venues a few short years ago, I would ask - have there been incidents or problems with working women being harassed or complaints about men they work with? None that I am aware of have been reported in the news, although one article I read vaguely hinted that there have been complaints, but nothing specific.
Or does it perhaps have to do with the deadly threats from 200 members of the country’s religious police force causing a ruckus in late December 2012, whereby these “Men of God” told the Minister of Labor that if he didn’t do something to stop Saudi women from mixing with men in the workplace that they would pray that Faqieh gets cancer and dies? Nice, huh? Especially sweet coming from "Men of God."
I think I have a much better and easier solution. Why not give the men in Saudi Arabia a chance to prove that they can behave themselves around women in the workplace? And if they can’t manage to do that, then just FIRE THEIR ASSES!!!
|Child molester, torturer and murderer Sheikh Fayhan Al Ghamdi|
I'm getting off topic here now, but what I really want to know is: why aren’t these religious guys (who are so concerned with protecting morality and female virginity) focusing on more important things that pertain to women and children here? For example, why aren’t they totally unhinged about the recent ruling in the case of the Islamic preacher, Sheikh Fayhan AlGhamdi? Al Ghamdi brutally raped and tortured his own five year old daughter in December of 2011. She remained in a coma in the hospital and finally succumbed to her horrendous injuries some 10 months later, in October 2012.
The judge in the case has recently ruled that the few months Al Ghamdi spent in jail was enough and all he has to do now is pay the family of the victim “blood money.” Here in Saudi Arabia, the so-called "justice system" in place is along the lines of “an eye for an eye” and provides for financial compensation paid to the heirs of the victim. In this case, the girl’s family or heirs would include her own father who heinously killed her. However, the paying of blood money should only apply when the killing was unintentional. It was obvious that the injuries suffered by this poor girl were not an accident.
So why isn’t the religious establishment here in Saudi Arabia demanding Al Ghamdi’s head on a platter instead of concerning themselves with such trivial matters as building barriers to separate men and women in the workplace? I don’t get it.
For more reading on these subjects:
From Al Arabiya News: Saudi labor minister faces 'deadly prayers' from angry clerics
From Al Arabiya News: "Wall-Mart?" Saudi shops to build sex segregation walls
From Sabria S. Jawhar: A commentary on Saudi society and religious bullies
From Saudi Woman, Eman Al Nafjan: Rest in peace, Lama
From Omaima Al Najjar: Islamic preacher gets away with murder