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Saudi Arabia Women; Can an Arab Muslim Arabian Woman Work in KSA?
Muslim Women in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia women are heavily restricted with regards to their freedoms to the point that many would ask if they can work or even travel alone. Saudi Arabian women and any other female who enters the ultra religious kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have to abide by the many rules and regulations enforced within this country. Many of these rules would be considered sexist in any other country and someone somewhere would be in court if they tried to enforce these rules out of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabian Women are not entitled to the same freedoms that we in the west take for granted, this hub will look at everything from how to dress, education, can a Muslim woman work, driving, segregation, abuse, marriage, divorce, adultery, punishment even death by stoning for an Arab woman. Arabic Muslim Women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have many restrictions, this article will explore those restrictions.
If you are used to the freedoms that we all enjoy in the western world you may be shocked at the restrictions placed upon the women in this ultra religious country. The observations in this article are my own from working in Saudi Arabia where I have been for almost 4 years witnessing the treatment of women here in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Women Have to wear Abaya
Other Rules in Saudi Arabia
If you would like to know about the various other rules and regulations that are enforced within KSA read this about the Rules in Saudi Arabia.
Clothing for Women in Saudi Arabia
Every woman in Saudi Arabia is required to be covered from head to foot in what they call an Abaya, a large black robe that covers every part of the body. This is also accompanied by a veil to cover the face leaving only the eyes showing and a headscarf. Some women here in Saudi Arabia even wearing black gloves and a full veil so that nothing of their body is showing!
Many women in Saudi Arabia that I have spoken to believe that this is their religious obligation and they do this willingly, after all they have been brought up this way from very young. Children are not expected to cover up, however once they start to “develop” they are covered up.
Younger Saudi girls that I have spoken to who have travelled overseas and have access to “western” TV cannot wait for the day when they can get away without wearing it! In fact I have seen many that try to find ways to get around the rules, leaving Abaya's unbuttoned to show fashionable clothes beneath and many no longer covering their heads.
Many non-saudi women in Saudi Arabia do not bother to cover their faces and some do not cover their hair. It is not compulsory to cover the face, but the hair should be covered, it is not uncommon for older Saudis or Mutawa (Muslim religious police) to tell women to cover their hair if not covered – always best to do as told as you could be arrested!
With the greater access to TV (MTV seems popular) and the many western programs that the young Muslim Saudi girls have access to it is in my opinion only a matter of time (significant amount though) before too many women in Saudi Arabia will be demanding greater freedoms in clothing and other areas.
I have heard a story (I have no Idea if it is true or not but have heard from several different sources) of a girls school that caught fire – The Mutawa (religious police) pushed the girls back into the school as they were trying to leave without their Abayas, it is said that the Mutawa told the girls that it was better for them to lose their lives than their souls, many girls perished because of this!
Lashes for Being Alone with a Man Even for an Elderly Woman
How can Saudi women Date?
You may be asking yourself how do you go about meeting a member of the opposite sex in Saudi Arabia, this guide to dating in Saudi Arabia may help as well as entertain.
Segregation of Arabic Women
In Saudi Arabia Women are not allowed to mix privately with any man who is not either their husband or a direct blood relative. This is a serious crime here and you could be arrested (both parties) and punished with many lashes.
If you go to a restaurant here in Saudi Arabia you will find two sections, one for men and the other for families (women and “families”). This is also copied for banks and other institutions where there will be a separate entrance and facilities for the women.
No woman should publicly talk or be seen with a man who is not a direct blood relative, she could be arrested for doing so and punished. You will not find courting couples taking a stroll along the beach and staring into each other’s eyes over a candlelit dinner!
Most Saudi homes have separate areas for the men and women, when families entertain guests and other family members the sexes will be split and they will socialize totally separately. This is also mirrored in the facilities offered in places that cater for Saudi Families, I regularly rent small villas with pools for the weekend, they tend to be split in two with two pools to keep the sexes apart.
Discrimination Against Women in Saudi Arabia
Education of Arabic Muslim Women in Saudi Arabia
Whilst I have not had the opportunity to go into a Saudi school here I have had the opportunity to talk with a number of Saudi women that I work with here and the wives of a number of my friends. The women seem to actually be better educated and in my opinion better motivated work wise than the men (In Saudi Arabia women are schooled separately to the men).
The Arab women appear to have had a much better education than the men that I know, or they actually listened and learned in school!
However saying this, the less well off families that I know with multiple children (families are large here, several children not being uncommon) would rather invest in their sons getting further education than their daughters. There are therefore a large number of Saudi girls that are not getting the same educational opportunities as the men.
In addition to this I have also been informed by women here that they have been given additional tests and expected to obtain higher grades by some male tutors within the universities here in the hope that they will fail! This however seems to backfire, as the women therefore work harder and achieve more to ensure that they pass.
Men here really can do no wrong, I have run many training courses here as a consultant, the Saudi men will almost always arrive late, if at all, they do not participate, and they always have to pass! The standing instruction here is that Saudi men always pass everything, even if they have done nothing to deserve it! However I have run some "official" training courses that have exams that have to be taken, the few Saudi Men that have attended have always failed and refused to re-sit.
Saudi Women Cannot Associate with Single men
Still Want to Work in Saudi Arabia?
If you are considering working in Saudi Arabia this guide to finding a job in Saudi Arabia will help.
Working Arabic Muslim Women in Saudi Arabia
They claim that a large percentage of Saudi women work, I would like to know where because I don’t see them! The number of women that I have seen working is very small indeed.
You do not see them working in any stores in the malls or in restaurants or anywhere else public! I spent several months working as a business consultant going around many business and saw no Saudi women working in any factories or any industrial type setting.
The first Saudi women that I saw working after almost 9 months were in the company that I worked for until recently, a Dubai owned company not a pure Saudi one. Since then I have met a few more women working in PR and marketing roles in a few other small companies.
Other than this the only other place I have seen working women in Saudi Arabia are in the hospitals – the nurses etc. This is the biggest employer of women by far in the Kingdom, however most of them are expat women, mainly Filipino nurses and Indonesian cleaners.
When women are working in Saudi Arabia they are required to have a separate area for their offices and relaxation, the company is inspected on a regular basis by the "ministry" to ensure that these rules are not broken!
Hot Saudi Muslim Woman to Drive
Women Drivers in Saudi Arabia
We often joke about women drivers in the west, but you should first see how Saudi men behave on the roads and look at how Saudis drive (and crash!)
Arab Women Driving in Saudi Arabia
Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive, it is not actually against the law as such but it is not accepted at all! In this way the Saudi women are very much controlled by their men!
If women in Saudi Arabia want to go anywhere (and remember it between 40 and 50 degrees Centigrade most days and you have to wear a big black cloak so walking is not a real option) they have to be driven by a family member. I have seen women in Saudi Arabia being driven by very young sons, by young I mean 10 years old!
A driver if the “law” is strictly applied is not acceptable as the Saudi Woman would be alone with someone who is not her direct blood relative, however most of the time people turn a blind eye to the practice of using a driver. It is not unheard of for overzealous police to arrest women with their drivers and even taxi drivers!
I have seen two women driving in Saudi Arabia in over 3 years here, the first around a car park late at night but the second in a gas station in the middle of the desert between Riyadh and Jeddah, she was blatantly driving a huge pickup and clearly did not care who saw her! I also hear rumors of a number of “well to do” women who drive, using vehicles that have all the windows blacked out so that no one can see inside.
It is generally believed that women will soon be allowed to drive here, there is a huge campaign under way to allow women behind the wheel.
This has been helped recently when a respected cleric here said that Saudi women should breastfeed their drivers to make them their sons, in this way it would not be unlawful for them to be alone with their drivers! I’m serious, this is not a joke! The women here have seized on this fatwa and are threatening to follow through with the suggestion unless the government allows them to drive!
Muslim Women and Marriage in Saudi Arabia
Muslim marriage is something that is arranged by the parents in the main for their daughters, although many men here take second, third and even fourth wives from the growing number of divorcees and expat women. Not all of these marriages being strictly fully legal, you can have a “marriage of convenience” under the laws here very easily as long as you are a Muslim.
Many Saudi women here are married off very young, there is no legal age of consent for marriage or sex in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There have been several cases recently with regard to young girls of 9 or 10 years of age that have been married off for money (SOLD!) to much older men, they have then sought divorces. (Only a few are reported but I am sure that there will be many more that are not reported as the Saudi girls are not seeking to escape as they know no better.)
Divorce for a man is very easy for the man, he only has to tell a woman on three occasions and it is all over – as simple as that! For a woman it is much harder to escape, if possible at all!
Most of the Saudi women that I have met through work are divorced, they have been married off young to immature Saudi "boys" who don't know how to deal with far more mature better educated women, these marriages quickly ending in divorce by the men who can't cope! The Saudi women then have to cope on their own often with young children!
Entering and Leaving Saudi Arabia
If you are going to enter or leave the kingdom of Saudi Arabia this guide to Saudi Visas may be of help, remember that you need a visa to leave KSA as well as get in!
A Warning to Women Wanting to Marry a Saudi
I have heard several reports now from people sending me emails in response to a number of the articles I have written and from other sources regarding women who have married a Saudi and then found that they are unable to escape from their spouses when behavior changes inside the kingdom.
A woman cannot travel outside the Kingdom without the permission of their husband, and nor can the children. I have had reports from women (and relatives of women) who have been unable to leave abusive husbands or have lost their children due to these restrictions.
I know several women now who have been forced to leave the kingdom leaving children behind and have no way or returning or making contact with their children!
Arabic Woman Stoned to Death for Adultery
Adultery in Saudi Arabia - Penalties for Arabic Women
Although it appears to be a sport for the men, Adultery is really a very big No for the women here in Saudi Arabia. Remember men here can have four wives and are allowed to have sex with their slaves (which is how many treat their domestic staff.)
The penalty for adultery here is death by stoning, so before you go running off chasing after someone else’s wife or husband remember that! There should however under Muslim sharia law be witnesses to the act and so on, however the judge can still rule against a woman even without evidence as in a recent case that has been publicized in Iran.
A woman there was acquitted of a charge of Adultery, she was then later tried for the murder of her husband and again found innocent, the judge however decided that she was guilty of the first crime that she was already found innocent of as there was no evidence and he sentenced her to death by stoning. Due to international pressure the sentence was changed to death by hanging and a news blackout was put in place.
A Saudi woman in Jeddah was gang raped by a group of men, the men were all found guilty and beheaded, the husband of the victim however called for the death sentence for his Saudi wife as she had been unfaithful to him! This was later commuted to prison and lashes for the victim due to an outcry!
News Report, Female Rape VICTIM punished with 200 Lashes
Exercise for Arabic Muslim Women in Saudi Arabia
I hate to say it but many Saudi women are overweight and unfit. Their lifestyle does not generally allow them to get much in the way of exercise and most households have cheap foreign maids to do all of the housework. Therefore most Saudi women literally do nothing all day.
Saudis have a very sweet tooth, the sweet section of a large meal could be many different varieties of different (very tasty) puddings. There is a huge diabetes problem and obesity problem here in the kingdom because of it.
Gyms for ladies in Saudi Arabia are actually against the law unless part of a recognized hospital, so there are also few options for the women with regard to getting fit and losing weight. You can see many Saudi Ladies walking around various blocks in the early evening just before it gets dark as a means to exercise.
Arabic Muslim Women Traveling Alone in Saudi Arabia.
It is inadvisable to walk alone as a woman, especially at night. An unaccompanied woman in Saudi Arabia will generally be regarded as a prostitute and treated as such! Saudi men (and other nationalities if they have been here too long) will often stop their cars next to women alone in the hope of picking them up! I have often seen men stop their cars next to my wife when they have not seen me loading the car while she has been stood there on the side of the road, they soon speed off when they see me.
My wife’s friend was grabbed by a man who tried to drag her into his car, she escaped but had massive bruises up her arm, we only live one building apart. The police were totally uninterested as she was only a Filipina!
My wife several years ago was grabbed by a man who put something over her nose and mouth that made her dizzy and dragged her into his car, luckily she carries a knife in her handbag and he soon let her out when she started to cut up his car seats and threatening to do the same to him!
How to Beat Your Muslim Wife
How do Saudi Men treat Arabic Muslim Women
In public Saudi men will treat women very politely if they are not of their own family, I have however seen them shouting at and striking their wives and daughters and maids publicly. They can best be described as bullies, they are afraid to mistreat other Saudi ladies because they don't know which family they belong to!
In private most Saudi men that I know are quite frankly sex mad pigs, excuse my words but they actually shock me with their behavior and I thought that I was un-shockable. They are happy to beat their wives and boast about it, they cheat constantly if they get the chance.
As to treatment of non Saudi women, they really do treat them like pieces of meat and do with them whatever they like with almost no worry about consequences! After all a woman in Saudi Arabia could not go to the police to complain about rape as she would be in trouble for being alone with the man in the first place! I have a few "friends" that I no longer associate with because of how they have forced themselves on poor women that they have managed to persuade to attend parties! As a woman in Saudi Arabia do not go anywhere alone with men (especially Saudi men) unless you really know them well and trust them, it is not rape if you went there willingly and it is you that will be in trouble!
Many run-away maids that I know (and I know many working illegally or looking for work) have run away due to sexual advances and actual rape by family members where they worked. I also know many that put up with this because they need the money to send back to their families as they are the only source of income!
I have one "friend" who actually rang me laughing to boast that he had picked up a cute Filipina maid and taken her back to his place (his bachelor pad rather than either of his wives apartments.) However this girl had refused his advances so he had drugged her to get what he wanted, the woman did not wake in the morning and he was boasting about how he had managed to dump her outside a hospital without being seen!
Saudi Arabian Women's freedom
Are the restrictions applied to Women in Saudi Arabia Fair?
Help for Expat Women in Saudi Arabia
If you are still considering working in Saudi Arabia as a female expat I would advise you to read the rest of my series on working in Saudi Arabia. The following hub is a summary of everything you need to know about being in Saudi Arabia; Being an Expat in KSA