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sobota, 23 kwietnia 2011

Mahram law heaps frustration on women

 Saudi and foreign women in the Kingdom who wish to travel abroad often feel the heat of severe traveling regulations.
Saudi laws dictate that women cannot travel without their mahram’s (male guardian) permission and in some cases can only tour with them.
GCC countries have different laws for Saudi women who can travel within the GCC without visa formalities or paperwork. However non-Saudi women are further restricted by what they deem as the “mahram commandment.”
Women have expressed major concern and empathy for those who cannot travel due to these stringent laws or because their mahram is not able to accommodate their travel plans.
Maya Hussein, a Canadian living in Jeddah, traveled to Abu Dhabi for work purposes, hoping to claim her visa upon arrival. However, she was given a choice between spending a night in prison or returning to Jeddah on the same flight.
“They said laws changed for Canadians. You do not need a visa if you are American or British. So basically the same rules apply to me as they do to expatriates living in Saudi Arabia. Unless my father travels with me, I cannot travel alone,” she said. “They said certain professions are allowed like engineers or businessmen. There are so many contradictions. It is either about the mahram rule, nationality bias or they are too confused within the framework of their contingency laws. It was the worst trip back home.”
Another Indian expatriate living in the Kingdom, 23-year-old Malaika Raza, expressed her anger to Arab News over her failed attempts to travel.
“An official at the UAE embassy in Jeddah told me my father needs to have a particular profession to enter Dubai in order to be able to accompany me. Does that mean my father should quit his job to accompany me?” she said. “The other rule is that a Dubai resident has to send me an invitation. I wanted to go and explore the city, so they are saying if I do not know anyone, I should not be allowed to go. I want to understand their unfounded logic. The trouble is there is no logic.”
Sameer Mahmoud, a 34-year-old Saudi, thinks the rules are fine and in accordance with the law of the system. “I will not allow my wife or daughter to travel abroad alone. Even if my daughter wants to study, I will send my son along.”
When asked what he would have done if he did not have a son to accompany her, he replied, “Then she could study here. My point is women need to be protected. We just want to be sure of their safety. I do not know what can happen out there and I do not want to risk her safety. Personally I want to take responsibility for them. If they really want to travel, I will take them. But it is a law and you must adhere to it.”
Tanya Benghazi, a 23-year-old Jordanian living in Jeddah, feels distraught due to the traveling laws. She feels a legal age for adults should be set that permits and allows women to travel irrespective of nationality and occupation status. “It is really subjective and disturbing. Why are people turning a blind eye to these racist laws when it is unmistakable discrimination? You can enter the UAE if you are an engineer. I wonder why the labor class is not qualified to visit their country. Women are facing a greater predicament. I think a 30-year-old woman is more responsible than a young amateur who has the freedom to travel and live his life. But if he has the freedom, then everyone deserves a fair chance.”
Noura Saeed, a 27-year-old Saudi, told Arab News, “I seriously think I should get married just for the sake of getting out of here. I want to travel. I am not asking for something immoral or unrealistic. For a moment I wish a higher authority pondered over this issue. Don’t men want to empower women, their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters? Give us freedom of movement. It is just, moral and our right.”

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