“However much people might indulge in tall talk, in no country or age were women given full freedom in religious and social matters, nor are they given their rights even to this day!” – P.R. Sarkar
My husband and I had a conversation today about laws and how he thinks laws should be respected and obeyed, no matter what. This is far different from the rebellious young man I first met back in the 1970s. As he has matured, his views have conformed with the status quo. I happen to believe that there are many laws on the books that are not good and not fair. My view is that not all laws deserve respect and we should take measures to change the bad ones. Our conversation led to the fact that Saudi Arabia does not grant Saudi citizenship to the children of Saudi women, unless the children’s father is Saudi. This law has been in effect in Saudi Arabia since way before DNA analysis was available. It diminishes and dismisses many women and their children as full citizens of this country.
My take on religion, politics, and government is that these things widely provide men with a platform to control and marginalize women. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have rules or laws governing society. I am saying that we need to have rules and laws that treat everyone equally and fairly. Many of the laws governing society place restrictions on women and their bodies under the guise of “protecting women” for their own good and treat women as if we are inferior and not capable of making the right decisions for ourselves. Sadly in many societies, women are only seen as lustful, sexual temptresses, only good for procreation. Even in the Buddhist religion, monks are given some 250 guidelines on how they should behave, while Buddhist nuns are to abide by over 350 rules of conduct. Why so many more rules of conduct for women?
There are many instances in the Bible that denigrate women to where they are always the lowest on the totem pole. Things like how husbands shall rule over women, and how women should be submissive and obedient. The Q'uran and the Torah also contain many like-minded statements.
While men are obviously, and unfortunately, physically stronger than most women, females are always made out to be lesser beings in many other ways than men – less intelligent, less competent, less tough, less capable, and less in control of our emotions. For example, in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to visit cemeteries because we "are too emotional.” Women in Saudi Arabia also have a legal male guardian their entire lives, effectively rendering all women in the country at the mercy of that one man in her life who makes all decisions for her. Some women are lucky and their guardians allow them the freedom to travel, to get an education, to work, or to marry the person she chooses, but many Saudi women are not that lucky. This guardianship system basically means that Saudi women are totally powerless over their own lives and destinies unless their male guardian allows them that power.
The ban on women driving here in Saudi Arabia still continues, even though Saudi women have been trying to get that basic right for 25 years now. The reasons for why women cannot drive here are so tiresome and ridiculous, but mostly focus on our personal safety – as if we women are far safer with a man behind the wheel. Saudi Arabia ranks among the world's worst countries for traffic fatalities. It's what happens when only men are allowed to drive. I find these excuses insulting and condescending. Despite the fact that I have driven safely in the United States since I was 15 (that’s almost 40 years!), in my eyes I am not allowed behind the wheel in KSA simply because I don’t have a penis.
Laws in America exist in many states to restrict women from making decisions about their own bodies regarding women’s health issues and in limiting their reproductive choices. Women in most countries are uniformly paid less than their male counterparts for the same work. While many women, who have been abandoned by men, are raising children on the own, paying men more is still justified because men are still considered the family breadwinners. Women in politics are subjected to scrutiny that male politicians aren’t, such as trash talk about her hairstyle or what clothes she is wearing, instead of focusing on her stance on important issues or on her voting record.
Blaming women for the woes of the world dates back to the first woman on earth, Eve. Isn't it time that this way of thinking stops? The sad truth is that in the 21st century women around the globe are discriminated against and seen as inferior to men. Many men prefer wars and violence to resolve differences, whereas most women favor peace and compromise.
Women have been held back for centuries by men – and quite frankly, men in power have made a real mess of things the world over. My husband says that may be so, but he turns it around on me by saying that we women “allowed” it to happen. I know he is teasing me when he says that, but it still makes me mad. Throughout history, gender inequality has resulted in women not being given the chance to be productive, to make decisions, and to make a difference. While a few women have managed to rise above these man-made limitations, most have not been able to. And I think it’s a shame.
Thursday, December 10th is Human Rights Day 2015.