A lot has been said about those who rejected women joining the Saudi Shura Council, working as saleswomen in women’s lingerie shops, working as cashiers at malls and working at pharmacies. Then a female child was forbidden from singing at a marketing festival because she is alluring.
These stances may be explained to us by some statements of the “subconscious religious movement” which is responsible for raising fear in people’s minds.
Recently during a mentoring program, a preacher appeared urging parents to cover the face of female babies even if she has not yet reached the puberty age.
According to his point of view “the baby’s body may have signs of beauty such as soft skin or obesity.”
He continues to say: “These signs in the female babies’ body are the reason of pedophilia incidents committed by relatives first at home.”
So what is the solution? A strict law on sexual harassment, spreading awareness through media and at schools, establishing a hotline to report harassments, opening centers specialized in treating victims of harassment, urging courts to lift custody of the child from the harasser and providing a safe environment for children? No. The solution is to cover the face of female babies.
I do not know how the sheikh says the child is subjected to sexual harassment inside the house by a relative whom she does not cover her face from and then requests her face be covered when she is out of the house.
Perhaps this reminds us of the sheikh who advised a girl whom her father harassed not to be alone with her father or wear transparent clothes in front of him because “at the end the father [is still] a man.”
With these advices, we have blocked the way in front of every pervert but not by treating the perversion but removing everything that turns him on. At the end, we would have cut out our society on measures based on the pervert’s thinking, not based on measures of a safe normal life that guarantees people’s dignity, rights, development and safety.
These advices were made by young preachers claiming to be the most understanding of the psychology of molesting fathers, and these preachers contribute to directing the public opinion.
At the same time, advises and instructions that confirm that the responsible for dangers and charms is the woman pile up in front of the people. So what do we do with her? We seek to eliminate her existence. We prevent her from appearing at public places, working at malls, shops, pharmacies, courts and the Shura Council, and we prevent her from playing sports. And so we rest.
But what about women’s names? What if their names also carry signs of seduction? What if a new preacher discovers that the name Awatef (emotions) moves emotions? And that the name Faten (winsome) is winsome, the name Jamila (beautiful) is seductive, the name Latifa (nice) is indecent and the name Basma (smile) is dissolute.
We have to always be careful. Being careful about this in particular is a necessity. We may have to cancel female names and stick to numbers. So like we called schools the first, second and third school of girls, we also call the girls as such in order to keep them away from raising suspicions and lusts. Names first, second, third, fourth and fifth are names that do not indicate anything and are not seductive.
What if some teenage girls commit a reckless action and wrote their names with numbers and not words? What can number four which is askew or five which is fat and round or nine which winks kindle?
I, personally, cannot guarantee for you what may happen. Let us just say: “May God be the guard from women’s indiscretion.”
This article was first published in Al-Hayat on Feb. 4, 2013.
Dr. Badreya al-Bishr is a multi-award winning Saudi columnist and novelist. She is a PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut and an aluminus of the U.S. State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud University, Department of Social Studies.