The UN Reports on Discrimination against Saudi Arabian Women
Friday, February 1, 2008 12:38 PM

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recently released a report detailing the systematic and persistent discrimination pressed upon Saudi Arabian women.  The discrimination pervades multiple societal facets governed by a strict interpretation of Islam, Wahabism, which imposes almost complete separation of the sexes.  In fact, it is illegal for a woman to be in the presence of man not within her immediate family.  In addition, the prevalence of a patriarchal ideology requires that to complete many of their daily tasks, women are required to have a male "tutor" or guardian accompany them.

Among the numerous human rights violations, the report highlights the high rates of domestic violence, high levels of illiteracy, poor healthcare provisions and the severe lack of representation of women in political and public life.  In addition, concern was expressed over the vulnerability of female domestic migrant workers in the kingdom to economic and sexual exploitation, particularly since they do not have ready access to the law.

The Committee urged the Saudi government to take a solid stance against these often volatile human rights violations and to take an active leading role in promoting women’s rights.  A Saudi delegate countered that change, in a society with deep-rooted stereotypes and cultural norms that discriminate against women, will be arduous and slow.  He added that Islam is a “realistic” religion that resists the idea of total equality between genders, citing various scientific studies on the psychological differences between the two.  This mentality adds to the resistance to change. 


Compiled from: “Saudi women face systematic discrimination: UN report,” Agence France-Presse (AFP), 1 February 2008.