Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
The recent decision by Saudi King Abdullah to allow women to vote in Saudi Arabia’s 2015 national election caused me to reflect back to an earlier period in my life. Back in the 1980s, I was an executive with a large cosmetic company, which was doing business in Saudi Arabia. At that time, the company’s women managers could not drive a car while carrying on business.
As I researched the issue for this piece, I found that the ban on women driving automobiles in Saudi Arabia still exists because of Sharia law. In fact there was a recent conviction of a woman for driving a car and her sentence was ten lashes with a whip! But, the King of Saudi Arabia has stopped the lashing. We will have to see what next takes place. And the law goes beyond driving automobiles. While lifting the ban on voting and running for office is a step forward, take a look at other impacts of Sharia Law on women in Saudi Arabia.
First, while despite protests by women across Saudi Arabia, women still cannot drive automobiles. Maybe, that is about to change in cities. At the same time, the law is ignored in rural areas where enforcement would be extremely difficult. Interestingly, women are permitted to fly airplanes even though they have to be chauffeured to the airport. It just does not make sense.
Next, women in Saudi Arabia cannot dress in public with anything but a burka. The burka is a full body cloak. Not too long ago a female Saudi journalist was tried for wearing trousers in public and found guilty. While she has not yet been sentenced, she could receive 40 lashes with a whip and a fine. There were a significant number of protestors at her trial. This story is not over.
One other interesting footnote about women in Saudi Arabia relates to the employment of women. Women, in Saudi Arabia, make up some 70 percent of all people enrolled in universities. At the same time women account for only 5 percent of the workforce – the absolute lowest of any country in the world! Why? Discrimination against women, under applications of the Sharia Law, is the sole reason for that discrimination.
If we go back some seven months, we can find a Florida judge making a decision that a case before him “…will proceed under ecclesiastical Islamic Law.” The laws of the United States and Florida were totally ignored. The judge implemented Sharia Law.
While there is no doubt that things will evolve in Saudi Arabia as the global economy develops and women in that country get even better organized in their protests, the discrimination against women is abhorrent. At the same time, does the United States back away from our Constitution and the laws of our 50 states?
It is my opinion that no foreign based or religious law should be allowed to encroach on our systems of justice. We have not heard the end of the Sharia Law debate in the United States, but the last thing we should do is follow the policies of Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations in discriminating against women.