Sunday, June 1, 2008

This article in Arab News gives me minute hope.. I just hope it wont be crushed again..

I have read before about the meeting that was held in
the Khadija Bint Khuwailed Center for Businesswomen hosted a lecture by Al-Jawhara Al-Angari, vice chairman of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), on the legal, social, political and civil rights of women in Islam.

I was disappointed that I didn't know about it or I would have attended.. but I read before there was a good number of women that attended.. we need more like these kind of lectures.. because women need to understand what their rights really are not just what they have been wanted to only know.. I don't take this as just an article.. it is a call to women...

Plight of Women Gets Deserved Attention
Samar Fatany,

Recent national initiatives increased public awareness among women and addressed misconceptions that lead to regulatory discrimination against Saudi women. The media is also keeping pressure on by exposing violations and outmoded attitudes about women. There is a genuine effort by all to keep the public informed about social concerns and government directives that are influencing change and reinforcing reforms.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) should be commended for its vigorous campaign to raise the level of awareness among women about their legal rights. The chamber’s Center for Law and Arbitration launched an initiative to spur research on divorce and custody laws. The initiative included research on three major categories, divorce under Shariah, the rights of divorcees in Islam and the custody rights of children in Islam.

To encourage researchers to participate, a cash award will be offered to the best, and the best nine studies will be printed in a book that will be distributed to the public free of charge. It is hoped that such studies will help bring about solutions for many unresolved divorce and custody cases and address the suffering of many women and children who are victims of injustice or misinterpretation of the Shariah law.

Meanwhile, the Khadija Bint Khuwailed Center for Businesswomen hosted a lecture by Al-Jawhara Al-Angari, vice chairman of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), on the legal, social, political and civil rights of women in Islam. Al-Angari addressed unimplemented laws and regulations that favor women and criticized the deficiencies in other regulations. The human rights advocate recommended that a civil family code be distributed with every identity card issued to a woman in order to inform her of her rights.

She then addressed the issue of business representatives imposed on women conducting business in the Kingdom. She said women should take advantage of the legal assistance provided by the Khadija Bint Khuwailed Center. The center, she said, could assist by drawing up specified powers of attorney that do not give absolute power to such representatives.

Al-Angari also urged women to be more active in promoting change. In her lecture, she noted that ignorance about their legal rights and under-appreciation by society are the reasons for the current plight of Saudi women.

The chamber publicized the event well and ensured that many women attended. Transportation was provided from every charity organization in Jeddah. Flyers were posted at colleges and universities along with SMS message and e-mail campaigns. As a result, 600 enthusiastic women showed up and used the opportunity to discuss issues that affect their lives. The lecture was an eye-opener for many women who had lost hope in government or society providing any protection or support.

The center presented Maha Fitaihi, wife of Jeddah’s mayor, lecturing on “Women in Islam.” She stressed the importance of recognizing women as a source of strength and pride, and she said that we should concentrate on building the character of our young girls and women to allow them to serve their country and religion. It is important, she said, to define the true Muslim identity of the Saudi woman so that she can take her rightful place in the international community and contribute toward global prosperity. Women left the hall inspired with a sense of pride in their identity and history.

Meanwhile, in Riyadh a group of Saudi legal and medical experts appealed to scholars at the Board of Senior Ulema and the Ministry of Justice to enact a law that bans child marriage. They highlighted many negative reports about this rural phenomenon and related many instances of abuse against child wives, in which judges citing Shariah law ruled against the victims. The experts urged the launch of an intensive awareness campaign to highlight the destructive effects of this practice. They called for an end to child marriage and stressed that those who indulge in this practice should face criminal penalties.

Arab News recently reported about women being locked up in their homes with their children when their husbands go to work. This practice is always discouraged by the police and Civil Defense officials as most Saudi homes lack fire-escape routes and almost all have iron security bars. Civil Defense officials continuously point out the dangers of such practices and urge against locking any family member or servant in the house. Police remain helpless because they cannot intervene without an official complaint. “If the wife consents willingly the law cannot interfere,” one official said. This is another example of how lack of awareness among women leads them to stay passive and accept such dangerous and demeaning situations — not only for themselves but for their children as well.

These efforts to raise awareness and the extensive campaign to enlighten women about their rights must continue in order to provide every woman with an opportunity to live in dignity. Many women remain resistant to change out of fear of the unknown or distorted views of their culture and faith. It is the duty of every sociologist, government official or employee and every educated citizen, man or woman, to improve the welfare of our sisters, mothers and daughters. We have a responsibility to help our society evolve and recognize the need to support women who may be isolated and unaware of a better way to live. Moreover, our educated and progressive women should accept a greater responsibility to lead by example to remove the suspicions of those who are against modernization and progress. We all — men and women — need to work together to devise laws and regulations that maintain respect and protect women both at home and in the workplace.

— Samar Fatany is a Saudi radio journalist based in Jeddah.

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