Voting Rights and Women Emancipation in The Ultra Orthodox Male Nation

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JanPratinidhi
JanPratinidhi

Voting Rights and Women Emancipation in The Ultra Orthodox Male Nation


Articles / Society & Culture   /   Sep 06, 2015
samreen Jawaid
samreen Jawaid
She is a writer. She has done post-graduation in Lingustic from JNU. She likes writing news stories, blogs and articles. She also likes to analyze political and international events and write stories on them. She wishes to bring a change to the lives of women by attracting the attention of leaders as well as society at large through her articles. Truth is what she stands for.

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Few will choose to vote and then take pride in conducting themselves as ideal citizens. Others will exude confidence in the status quo-ism of the ‘vote-virgin tag’ displayed prominently in defiance of having not fallen into the trap of the system and the state, thereby boycotting to vote. Perhaps that is the privilege of a democracy. But what significance does voting rights have in a monarchy where the political decisions are largely decided by the state? If there happen to be any elected institution, do they enjoy any autonomy, whatsoever? Moreover, how does it impact the fairer sex? Does it only rest as a gross manifestation of an extraordinary moment making history? Perhaps this is what happened in Saudi Arabia as it passed to voting rights for its women in the last week of August.

 

In 2011, the late king Abdullah passed an order, which enabled women to have a say in deciding their leaders at the municipal level or aspiring to leadership themselves. This became a reality only in 2015.

 

Voting rights or no voting rights, Saudi Kingdom is a curious case of study because its women folk have been invisibilized with such care that they have become almost non-existent. Existing alongside the male population yet separated in every aspect of life, the illiberal monarchy has foisted on them a role that makes them useful only when their company is desired perhaps for procreation or perhaps for other domestic work. Their social life is strongly guarded by black veils, abbayah and a male chaperone.  And anyone who ever has the temerity to enter their world will confess that the confidence they exude in being invisible in not matched with anything anywhere. In fact, they have become so adept at this androgynous attire that a stranger might wrongly interpret the abbayah as a weapon of their emancipation. This is a shield, a boundary. And although they might ooze security and judiciousness in having adjusted to this life, the chaos of their unfettered spirits must amalgamate into something bigger. They must come forward and make use of this newly granted right to vote.

 

At present there are 44 monarchies in the world. 7 of them are absolute monarchies. Saudi Arabia is one of them. The country is run on the rules derived from Sharia, Islamic law, which is based on a very conservative interpretation of Quran. Nevertheless municipal councils are the only elected bodies in the kingdom, nearly half of its members are appointed by the state itself and rest half is to be elected through a democratic process.

 

In such a scenario, where absolute political power remains under the control of the Saudi kingdom and where the deep-rooted misogyny is so entrenched that women, who constitute 42% of the country’s total population, has almost negligible presence in the social and economic life. Participating in political issues will amount to something blasphemous.

 

The women are not allowed to venture out alone and must be accompanied by a male family member. The ban on the presence of women in public space makes job out of the question. Driving is still not permissible in the Saudi kingdom. To register themselves as a voter or stand for office, the women will be required to get a valid ID card and proof of residency, which is not easy to obtain taking in view the highly protective male guardianship. Besides, if the ultra-orthodox male of the Saudi kingdom does not want the women to vote or run an office, he can easily stop them from doing it.

 

And yet, the right to vote can work towards reinventing the relationship among the subversive women community, the male counterpart and the state. No doubt gender equality has a long way to go and in the Saudi kingdom the struggle is much bigger. The right to suffrage is only one aspect in the process of larger emancipation. Saudi women must assert themselves to challenge the gerontological tyranny.

 

(image courtesy: http://goo.gl/2x5KML)


The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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