An open letter to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has banned its citizens from marrying foreigners from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Chad. The administration says that the number of expats from these communities has exceeded the government’s limit of 500,000. But for one Pakistani woman, this is a blessing in disguise!
This week, your honorable government, has obliged me and my fellow Pakistani women with great news by imposing a new law banning your men from marrying Pakistani, Bengali, Chadian and Burmese women, and setting restrictive rules on marrying Moroccan women.
Never in my life has a new law in your country made me happier. I have some news for you. We, (and I speak for Pakistani women only), also don’t want to marry Saudi men, and our reasons are much stronger than yours for imposing this law.
I am not claiming to be born in the world’s best country when it comes to gender equality, nor do I intend to compare Pakistan with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I can’t. After all, the Kingdom was 127th out of 136 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report and Pakistan was at 135. But who on earth imposes a ban on international marriages? Even Islam allows men to marry women from other religions, let alone other nations.
Currently, over 500,000 women from these four nationalities reside in the Kingdom, and I am just trying to make a point for them. Here are just some of the most shameful (or shameless) reasons why, at least Pakistani women, are not interested in marrying your men:
1. Your Saudi guardianship system sucks.
How does this sound? “Sorry, we cannot treat you for a burst spleen because your male guardian is away and you don’t have a signed permission letter.” Messed up! Right?
In Saudi Arabia, women can be deprived of emergency medical services if they do not have permission from their male guardians. Written and signed. Just last year, after a woman and her daughter were critically injured. The woman’s husband died following a car chase by the religious police. King Fahd Hospital in Baha postponed amputating the woman’s hand because she had no male legal guardian to authorise the procedure.
And yes, in “women-related” medical conditions, they cannot be treated if no female doctors are available. “Madam, the toilet is towards this side, please. You can either choose to pop your baby out there or return home since there is no female gynaecologist at the moment.”
2. Your travel bans on women are useless.
Girls and women in Saudi Arabia are forbidden from traveling on their own and from conducting official business. According to the Human Rights Watch 2013 report, there are just four professions in which women can work without the permission of a male guardian. These are: clothing stores, amusement parks, food preparation and as cashiers. The Saudi Labour Ministry’s decrees, however, reinforce strict sex segregation and have zero-tolerance for male-female interaction.
3. You don’t let women drive.
Yes, for those who are still oblivious of this fact, let me break it to you. Women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia and guess how the Saudi Arabia Religious Council justifies the ban? By saying this: “Allowing women to drive would mean no more virgins… More pornography would be used if women were allowed on the roads and rates of prostitution and divorce would also rise.”
Ah! So that’s the reason behind all the divorces, the prostitution and pornography around the world! Please make sure there is a “spare” male guardian at home all times in case of emergency.
4. Your draft law to combat violence against women is the biggest lie.
Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the world with the most lax punishments for domestic violence. It was not more than a joke when, last year, a Jeddah Court convicted a man for physically abusing his wife to the point of hospitalisation. He was sentenced to learning by heart five parts of the Quran and 100 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h). Yeah right! This will definitely make him repent and the injured woman heal sooner. Wouldn’t it?
5. You allow absolutely no interaction between men and women.
So ladies, if you are lost in the desert, have an accident and need help, fall off the stairs in a marketplace and might need help getting up, or are pregnant and need to sit and the only seat available is next to a man, don’t be mistaken because things are not getting any better. You are on your own. And don’t even get me started on your callous policies and ruthless treatment of migrant workers.
6. It’s 2014 and you don’t let women vote.
After Vatican City, Saudi Arabia is the second country that doesn’t allow women to vote. However, according to an official decree women might get the right to vote in 2015. Let’s see if they stick to it.
And before I close, please note that Pakistani women, too, have conditions for any non-resident Saudi men who may wish to marry them: No fat men, no perverts (we have a lot of our own), no child abusers, no marrying-for-pleasure-only, no artificially enlarged penises, and please, no more wives!
Author: Ayesha Hasan
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Ayesha Hasan is a Pakistani journalist. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Media and Ethnicity in Australia. Tweet her @ayeshahasan08.
Date08.08.2014 | 9:32