a modern society human rights’ respect is a crucial factor to successfully
developing country and fulfilled population. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever
our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color,
religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our
human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated,
interdependent and indivisible.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR), the first legal document assures universal human rights, supports idea
about equality of all human being and covers a wide range of human rights.
Human rights are established on the standards of respect for the individual and
emphasize the uniqueness of human rights, whether Asian or African, Islamic or
Christian. Its roots lie in earlier custom and documents of many cultures; it
took the incentive of World War II to actuate human rights onto the universal
stage and into the global recognition. Throughout of history, people obtain
rights and obligations through their membership in a group – a family, local
nation, religion, class, community, or state. Communities, whether in oral
or written form, have had systems of respectability and justice as well as ways
of tending to the health and prosperity of their members. Documents claiming
human rights, for instance, the Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights
(1689), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the
US Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791) are forerunners to many of present
day’s human rights documents. However, most of these documents excluded women. The
concept of human rights became prepotent after World War II. People demand that
never again would anyone be unlawfully rejected life, sovereignty, provision, home,
and nationality. The claims came from all over the world for human rights forms
to protect residents from injustice by their governments, principles against
which nations could be held responsible for the treatment of people living
within their territory. Eventually, ideas of the rights that have existed for
many years in human’s history are fixed in the one document. The UDHR’s
influence has been significant. Its principles have been included into the
constitutions of many countries. Even though, a declaration is
not a document obliging by the law, the Universal Declaration has obtained the
status of customary international law as long as people consider it “as a common standard of
achievement for all people and all nations.” In Europe, North and South
America, Africa local documents regarding protection of human rights expand the
International Bill of Human Rights. For instance, in African states their own
Charter of Human and People’s Rights (1981) have been created, and Muslim
states have created the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990). Some
scholars believe that “Every reliable human rights indicator suggests progress
in the direction of self-determination and democratization in all parts of the
world, which means more participation by individuals in their own destiny and
more restraint on the part of governments” (Falk). Unfortunately, not every state,
mostly in the Middle East, has democratic oriented authority. Despite the fact,
that United Nations committees, governments and many non-governmental organizations
control Human rights abuses, every day we can see dozens and hundreds of
violations, which occur worldwide. Human rights activists believe that the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still more a dream than reality.
Injustices still exist in every part of the globe. Women and children are abused
in various of forms. Thus, the press is controlled by authorities in some countries,
dissenters are often stay silenced. Every day we can notice that human rights
are disregarded in many countries and serious women’s rights are offended all
over the world. While women in the Western world can enjoy existing Human
rights on a par with men, women in Saudi Arabia are still considered as a
minors and excuse for it is trying to be found in historical, religious and
cultural aspects. However, women are still under tremendous numbers of
restrictions. According to The Washington
Post, in Yemen women are considered only half a witness; in Saudi Arabia
and Morocco rape victims can be charged with crimes, accordingly punishing
women for leaving the house without a male guardian; women in Yemen can’t leave
the house without their husbands’ permission; illegal abortion in El Salvador;
sexual assault against women, and dozens of
constitute almost half of the world’s population they suffer from opposition of
their rights in many parts of the world, sometimes even in countries, which affirm
legal equality for both sexes. Often women’s rights are violated in Islamic
countries where women frequently have much less rights than men. Traditional
and religious system in Saudi Arabia regulates the women’s status, which is
often approved by law. “Women
in Saudi Arabia can be seen to be in a position subservient to men as
restrictions are strictly applied which curtail their way of life. These
restrictions are often explained by reference to Islamic requirements, but the
Qur’an and other sources of Islamic law do not necessarily support the
interpretations of the law that Saudi authorities apply” (Mtango). Thus, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state, its laws are
based on Islam. Therefore, any criticism or questioning of Saudi laws is often
considered as a criticism of Islam. The concepts of non-discrimination and
equality gave foundation for arguing against women’s rights violations in Saudi
Arabia. A violation of women’s rights comes when restrictions are imposed, and
women are being denied their rights on the basis of sex. “The World Economic Forum in its 2016 report on the
global gender gap ranked Saudi Arabia 141 out of 144 countries for
gender parity — down from 134 out of 145 in 2015”, Los Angeles Times. Human rights are the same for every person in
the world, and its standard is the same everywhere. However, ideologies in
Islamic society other often influence on unequal treatment of women. Still, in
2000 Saudi Arabia ratified Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This treaty basically, supports equal
approach to men and women in all spheres of life and prohibits women’s
discrimination. Despite this, women’s life in Saudi Arabia is still under
control by governmental, cultural and traditional prohibitions and patriarchal
structure. Women are denied in certain rights, including the freedom to travel
and equal access to education and employment, even a
personal choice is a luxury for Saudi woman.
restrictions are connected with protection of Basic Law by Shari’a, that often refers
suppression of women’s rights in the name of religion. Even so, Islam provides
equality between men and women, so its interpretations do not represent the
religious texts. According to Foreign
Affairs, “almost one in two Saudi women is subject to violence and a quarter to
sexual abuse before they turn 15” (Aldosari).
So we can notice that some
human rights are violated in regard to Saudi women, such as right for all to be
born free and equal; don’t discriminate; to have rights no matter where you go;
to be equal before the law; freedom to move; freedom of thoughts and
expression; workers rights; the right to education; a fair and free world.
uphold and protect women’s rights, as a duty-bearers stand out some
Non-Governmental organizations, such as the United Nations, Commission on the
Status of Women, International non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch.
Some the United Nations organizations are working on women’s rights issues in
Saudi Arabia, UN-Women, Web-site http://www.unwomen.org/en.
Levels of analysis.
of analysis can help us clearly understand and make an objective opinion to the
Individual factor we can specify women who in Saudi Arabia world are considered
as a minor and not allowed to have equal rights with men; men who used to
control their women; Saudi Arabia King
Salman who considers that Saudi Arabia society is ready for some kind of
changes. He believes that the new policy will help the economy by increasing
women’s participation in the workplace.
National factors are: women rights are limited;
pure Islamic nation, where women are supposed to have a guardian and permission
from father/husband/son. Saudi Arabia as a State with puritan version of Sunni Islam, including harsh
punishments such as public beheadings, and its restrictions on women. The Al
Saud dynasty holds a monopoly of political power.
Ultraconservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab state.
Oil exporting nation which has economic independence with the West.
Global: Saudi activists have been arrested for their
fight for the ban to be overturned in previous years.
Restrictions on Women in Saudi Arabia.
in Saudi Arabia are required to hide their faces with an abaya and a black
veil, what shows women’s belonging to Islamic creed. This requirement stems
from Prophet Mohammed’s instructions for men and women to be modest and is not
strictly required as part of Islam. However, the injustice arises since men are
treated with the flexibility concerning their appearance, and women are subject
to strictness; what leads to the women’s discrimination and serious penalties. “The Saudi woman … stepped out in public wearing a
multicolored dress, a black jacket and ankle boots — without a hijab or
abaya, a loose fitting garment”, that led to her arrest. “Police in the
country’s capital of Riyadh said they had arrested the woman, following their
duty to monitor “violations of general morals,” and “Riyadh police stress
that the action of this woman violates the laws applied in this country”
In Saudi Arabia
society by the age of seven boys and girls are strictly divided into two
different worlds: man and woman. It means that all public facilities, such as
restaurants, transportation and others are segregated for men and women by law.
In 2016 “Women were banned from
entering a Starbucks in Saudi Arabia after a ‘gender barrier’ wall collapsed,
it has been claimed. A sign posted on
the window of a Riyadh store of the coffee chain, in Arabic and English,
reportedly read: “Please no entry for ladies only. Send your driver to
order. Thank you.”Independent.
There is also separation for men and
women in the educational system. At school and universities boys and girls, men
and women attend segregated establishments or classes are taken separately.
Furthermore, access to the library is limited for women, because of the
prohibition to use facility for men and women at the same time. For instance, “At
the King Saud University in Riyadh, women are allowed to use the library only
one morning every week, and
the men use it the rest of the time” (Mtango). In addition, girls study in the lower
conditions than boys; it includes class size, trained level of teachers or
professors and others. All of these factors denied equality in education and
opportunities for both genders and don’t provide educational benefits on an
has its negative influence on women’s employment in Saudi Arabia. According to
the law, it is not permitted for women to be or work in the company of
non-relative’s men. This restriction allow to women work only in the fields
that serve women exclusively, such as hairdresser, teachers or doctors or some
others capacities where connection with men excluded. This type of banning
looks more social that it has religious aspect. On some points of view, women’s
responsibility is to take care of her husband, children and home; and if she
does this job well, she cannot have enough time for work.
5. Freedom of Movement
Sharia’s law, women must have a male guardian: a father, husband, brother or
even a son. This notion restricts women’s movement not only outside the State,
but also even outside their homes. Within the country women are prohibited from
driving, and also they are not allowed to travel without the permission of
their male guardian. One of the reasons for banning women from driving is that
driving requires women to unveil themselves and to uncover some body parts.
Driving also may lead to unacceptable interaction between men and women. In
this way there is no religious aspect for drive banning, but the social mores
of the country support the ban. In November 1990, women rebels were
demonstrating against this ban, by dismissing their drivers and driving or
riding as passengers of women drivers through downtown Riyadh. As a result,
they were “immediately arrested, and some religious
leaders petitioned for the women to be beheaded”. However, the prohibition
on women from travelling without male guardians undermines Article 15(4) of
CEDAW, which provides equality with men before the law.
6. Restrictions under Family Law
marriage and its dissolution Saudi Arabia women are discriminated as well.
Traditionally under the Shari’a law, woman cannot contract her own marriage,
but marriage is done on her.
Moreover, “women can face difficulties gaining custody of their children after
a divorce, if her sons are older than seven or her daughters are older than nine,”
(Mark). A woman also needs a male guardian’s permission
to divorce. And until the divorce is finalized, a woman’s husband remains her
legal guardian throughout the process, according to the Human Rights Watch
report. Moreover, men may petition the courts to forcibly divorce a
female relative from her husband if they deem the marriage “unfit,”
the report found. Women cannot retain custody of their children in a divorce
after the kids reach the age of 7 for boys and 9 for girls, according to the
Human Rights Watch report.
Unfortunately, there are much more restriction on a women in
Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch in its report points out, that women cannot obtain passports or identification cards without permission of a male guardian; women
who are convicted of a crime and serve a sentence behind bars cannot leave
prison without the permission of a male guardian if “there is this feeling that she brought
shame upon her family and the honor of her family has been damaged and
therefore the guardian won’t come and free her,” Ahmed Benchemsi, advocacy
and Communications Director for Human Rights
Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, told ABC News.
need the permission of a male guardian to open their own bank account,
Benchemsi said, and they can’t open bank accounts for their children without
written consent from the child’s father; Under Saudi Arabia’s Sharia
inheritance laws, daughters only receive half of what their brothers are
entitled to, according to the U.S. State Department. The testimony of a man in
Saudi Arabia’s courts equals that of two women, according to the U.S. State
Department. In other words, a woman’s statement is only worth half of a man’s. While
the State Department notes that Saudi women can make their own determinations
regarding hospital care, the Human Rights Watch report found that a guardian’s
permission is required for certain medical treatments, including elective
surgery and even life-saving procedures.
for equality man and woman is a very significant issue. Thus, Emma Watson, a British actress, model, and activist, in her speech to the UN General Assembly
concerns about women’s rights and inequality in the world. She points out some
issues women interfere, such as to be paid equal as men, to have equal rights
and opportunities, “political, economic and
social equality of the sexes”, to be able “make decisions about own body”, to
be involved in decision-making process and girls children marriage and many
others. Watson suggests her solution for those problems: get involved everyone
– men and women and start acting for solving this problem today.
Tanguy, Director at UN Women in
her speech at the opening of the AlWaleed Philanthropies Conference on “The
Evolving Role of Women in Saudi Arabia” in Riyad, points out, “continue to develop their women talents, invest in their
productive capabilities and enable them to strengthen their future and
contribute to the development of our society and economy”
are “empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors
and throughout all levels of economic activity is essential to build strong
economies; establish more stable and just societies; improve the quality of
life for women, men, families and communities; and improve the performance of
business”. And “drive acceleration in the work place, acceleration in the
supply chain, acceleration in the shaping of our norms and expectations and
acceleration of the financing into women-led businesses and business
Mtango, Sifa. “A state of oppression?
Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.” Asia-Pacific
Journal on Human Rights and the Law, vol. 5, no. 1, 2004, pp.
49-67. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A133202691/AONE?u=cuny_laguardia=AONE=f6f29ccc.
Falk, Richard. “Think Again: Human Rights.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 28 Oct.
Hennessy-Fiske, Molly. “Women’s Rights in Saudi
Arabia? There’s an App for That – Los Angeles Times.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 31 July 2017,
Aldosari, Hala. “Guardians of the Gender
Gap.” Foreign Affairs, 29 Aug. 2016,
Schmidt, Samantha. “A Saudi Woman Tweeted a Photo
of Herself without a Hijab. Police Have Arrested Her.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Dec.
Matharu, Hardeep. “‘Saudi Arabian Women Banned
from Starbucks after Collapse of Gender Segregation Wall’.” The Independent, Independent Digital News
and Media, 4 Feb. 2016, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabian-women-banned-from-starbucks-after-collapse-of-gender-segregation-wall-a6852646.html.
Mark, Michelle. “Women in Saudi Arabia Will Be
Allowed to Drive for the First Time – Here’s What They Still Can’t Do.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 27 Sept.