Saudi women reluctant to claim rights, despite legal protection

Experts believe the reluctance on the part of women to claim their rights stems from a fear of the social implications of such actions

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Despite growing awareness on individual rights in Saudi society and the existence of several bodies concerned with protecting human rights, especially women’s rights, many women are reluctant to claim their rights by taking their grievances to courts.

Experts believe the reluctance on the part of women to claim their rights stems from a fear of the social implications of such actions. In many cases, women begin the process only to back down later when they find that the price for taking legal action is too high in a male-dominated society that forces women to bear hardships and give concessions, often at the expense of their dignity.

Whether the accused is her father, brother, husband or boss, a woman who seeks the help of the law to gain her rights is often socially ostracized.

Several experts spoke to Al-Riyadh daily about the reasons why women do not seek legal recourse to restore their usurped rights, whether such rights are job-related or concern the family or society.

Dr. Nora Al-Suwayyan, a female academic at Majma’ah University and family consultant, said the culture of demanding one’s rights is stronger among Saudi men than it is among women.

“Our society in general lacks or is weak in rights culture. This is despite the existence of numerous rules and regulations that protect these rights and deal with their violations.

Regretfully, the culture of demanding one’s rights is more lacking among women. This is because of the discrimination that women face and a general failure to recognize their full rights as citizens,” she said.

Al-Suwayyan said many women are aware of their rights but regardless of the degree of injustice or violence they are subjected to, they are still hesitant to turn to the concerned authorities for help.

She attributed this to the social upbringing of many women that emphasizes forgiveness, patience and sacrifice. She said the social stereotype for the ideal woman is the one who sacrifices and is patient.

“Instilling this picture through culture and popular and social adages has strengthened women’s passive stances toward their most important causes.

Women themselves have contributed to the complete understanding of this picture through their concern not to digress from this stereotype.

They seek to portray the ideal image. Women do not even have the psychological readiness to complain and disclose their sufferings due to the fear of being described as being rebellious. Hence, they find nothing to stick to but patience and silence, however much they suffer and are harmed,” she added.

In recent years, the passive attitude that Al-Suwayyan described has started to change after the establishment of government and private societies and institutions concerned with human rights and the open reporting of women’s rights cases in the media.

Mashael Bint Khalid Al-Sinani, a legal consultant at the National Family Security Program, said: “Despite women’s awareness about their rights increasing greatly, there are some women who are still silent about their suffering.

Submitting to the social restrictions is still more widespread than turning to the courts for justice.”

Al-Sinani attributed women’s fear to demand their rights to the lack of legal awareness. In most cases, the reason is related to a fear of failure or from the social consequences and disapproval of her conduct by those around her.

“It’s time for women to step up because the matter is in their hands now,” she added.

This story was originally posted on the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 12, 2014.

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