The Saudi government is facing a conundrum when dealing with temporary marriages (Nikah Misyar, for Sunni Muslims). While there are multiple fatwas authorizing such marriages as permitted under Shariah law, it is against Saudi Arabia’s public policy. The government acts to discourage it — as with this article from Saudi Gazette — but appears to be unable or unwilling to directly counter religious statements. Whether moral suasion overcomes biological drives and convenience, with a religious blessing, will be an interesting thing to watch.
Grappling with the surge in temporary marriages
Saudi Gazette report
THE Saudi Charitable Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad (Awaser) has warned Saudi citizens against engaging in any temporary marriage contracts abroad.
Speaking to Al-Riyadh newspaper, Tawfiq Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chairman of the board of directors, said the society works with the ministries of social affairs and foreign affairs as well as Saudi missions abroad to crack down on Saudis who enter temporary marriages.
“There should be legislation and extensive media coverage of such marriages arranged by brokers outside the country. Saudi men should realize the consequences of these marriages.
Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, these types of marriages have spread and are out of control. They have been called tourist, summer and common-law marriages and they all have one common thing: they’re temporary and the disengagement ends with a divorce,” Al-Suwailem said.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz badly report a vote in Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council. The headline says that the Council voted against the appointment of women as ambassadors. Actually, the Council said that the nomination of ambassadors was outside its competence: it is up to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the Council to make such nominations and appointments. It was within the Council’s remit, however, to deny Saudi diplomats a pay raise.
RIYADH – The Shoura Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to appoint women in the post of ambassadors.
The foreign affairs committee at the council turned down the recommendation moved by a member Lubna Al-Ansari in this regard. She proposed that women shall be appointed in key positions in the Kingdom’s administrative, financial and technical fields as well as in diplomatic missions abroad.
The committee report noted that it is a policy matter that can be decided by the higher authorities. It also drew attention to the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs enjoys jurisdiction to appoint women in key positions, including that of ambassador, and it will make appointments in key positions after taking into account of the qualifications and capabilities of the officials. The council also rejected another proposal to increase salary of diplomats and other officials working at Saudi missions abroad. — Okaz/Saudi Gazette
Following a change in law created family courts and that granted divorced women rights of guardianship over their children, among other things, the courts have been flooded with cases. Saudi Gazette reports that 84,000 cases have been filed in the seven months since the courts were established. Disputes over alimony and child custody seem to make up the largest number of cases.
Family courts looking into 84,000 alimony and custody lawsuits
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Nearly 84,000 lawsuits concerning alimony and child custody have been filed since family courts were established in the Kingdom about seven months ago, the Justice Ministry announced.
It said 43,000 of these cases pertained to alimony claims and 41,000 were regarding child custody disputes between parents.
Riyadh, with 1,122 cases, topped all other cities in alimony lawsuits followed by Jeddah, which had 768 cases and then Makkah with 394 cases.
Riyadh also topped other cities in child custody cases with 1,046, followed by Jeddah’s 764 cases and Makkah with 473 cases.
A source at the Jeddah Family Affairs Court said most family lawsuits involved men who refused to pay alimony to their ex-wives or prevented them from visiting their children.
In many conservative Muslim states, men do not talk to women other than their relatives. They may not even shake hands with them. Foreign male diplomats are taught to wait to see if a woman extends her hand for a shake before extending their own. Female diplomats are taught to not even bother if the interlocutor is male.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh in which the writer — a Saudi woman — points out to the patent unfairness and illegality of the way government officials (and others) refuse to deal directly with women, insisting that only males enter their offices (or office buildings). Some refuse to speak with women even on the phone. Or how some doctors will speak only to males in discussing medical concerns of patients… even if the woman is the patient.
It’s truly a backward approach to life and one the Saudis are going to have to come to terms with if they’re not going to continue leaving themselves open to complaints and criticisms like those made by the Swedish Foreign Minister.
‘Sorry, I don’t talk to women’
Dr. Hatoon Ajwad Al-Fassi | Al-Riyadh
I added the word “sorry” to the title of this article even though government officials do not normally bother to use this word. I have previously written regarding how women are not allowed to enter government buildings and are forced to stand outside on the street. I now intend to discuss how government officials treat women once they manage to enter government offices.
I know of a woman who went to a hospital with her husband. The hospital’s management subsequently asked her to leave because women are not allowed to stay the night with their husbands. Only male family members can do so. This woman asked the consultant to keep her posted on her husband’s health. He, however, refused to speak to her in person or over the phone, and said he would only talk with male family members. He insisted on dealing with her like this even though what he was doing was against the rights of patients.
Another example is that of a mother who called her son’s school to ask how well he was doing. The teacher refused to talk to her and said he would only to talk to the child’s father. What if this woman were widowed or divorced?
Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi businesswomen are finding a place in Riyadh, with over 72,000 of them owning their own companies.
72,494 women-owned businesses in Riyadh
Hazim Al-Mutairi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
RIYADH — According to the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the number of registered businesses owned by women in the city reached 72,494.
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Women’s Committee, the British Embassy and the British Cultural Council organized the Women and Entrepreneurship Forum where foreign embassies and other committees at the chamber engaged in dialogue on the future and opportunities of women businesses in Riyadh.
Arab News reports that Saudis are getting married at a slower rate and older ages. While the article focuses on women, it notes that men, too, are delaying marriage until they can afford it. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but there’s concern that this delay may affect the reproduction rate as women pass their most fertile years.
Poor job prospects and unemployment, coupled with the grotesque costs involved in marriage ceremonies are cited as major causes for the delays.
As delaying the age of marriage for both young men and women in the Kingdom has become more common, experts say the number of unmarried women has increased in recent years.
The number has grown 15 times in comparison to 1995, according to official statistics. The Kingdom is thus in second place among countries in which the percentage of single people has increased over the past two decades.
Delaying the age of marriage and the growing number of single women are undoubtedly closely linked, experts say. While many young people choose to delay marriage until they are socially and psychologically ready, many women find themselves in situations where their chances of marriage have significantly narrowed.
Among the several reasons that lead to a delay in marriage are the higher costs of living and greater financial responsibilities, says economist Dr. Salem Bajajah. Many young men are unable to afford property and meet household costs and so choose to work longer and accumulate more money.
Arab News reports that Saudi society is starting to look at names, naming, and the way some parents take out their emotions through giving their children obnoxious names. While it often seems that Saudis are working from a limited list of names — so few names show up so often — there are actually many. Some are family names; others come from various periods of Islamic history. But some are given to children because they’re born the wrong sex (i.e., female) or because their fathers, who are usually responsible for naming, are acting out some personal drama.
The article says that the Saudi government is seeking to make it easy for people to change awkward or embarrassing names or those that would leave them open to mockery and ridicule.
The names of newborns in Saudi Arabia has changed greatly in recent years due to increased cultural openness and the spread of knowledge within society. Unusual or rare names have been reduced due to the work of authorities across the Kingdom who have enacted regulations to curb exotic or strange names.
The most circulated names in the Kingdom include Mohammad, Fahd, Abdullah, Abdulrahman, Turki, Bandar, Omar, Ali, Fatima, Aisha, Nora, Hessa, Sheikha, and Maha.
Parents are no longer calling their children a variety of odd names, including Rashash (a gun machine), Zaqam (to do with the mouth) and Najar for boys, as well as Faziah (one who is afraid) and Mureibah (fearful) for girls.
Nowadays parents can find dictionaries for names in most bookshops and libraries in order to help them choose good names that suit their preferences.
Al Arabiya TV reports on unemployment for Saudi females, tying it in with the story of Summer Nasief, a Saudi employee of IBM who decided to work in Saudi Arabia rather than the US. Her goal is to encourage Saudi women to work for what they want.
The article also provides a useful infographic about female unemployment in the Kingdom. At the very least, this has to be acknowledged as an insufficiently tapped resource.
First Saudi IBM healthcare exec talks female employment
Shounaz Meky | Al Arabiya News
The first IBM Saudi female industry executive says she wants more Saudi women to take the lead in breaking social ceilings.
Dubai-based Summer Nasief tells Al Arabiya News of how she became head of the healthcare and life-sciences industry for the blue-chip company, where she worked for 14 years.
Nasief decided a few years ago to leave the United States for Saudi Arabia, persuading IBM that she could create a Saudi healthcare industry for them.
Her move was inspired by her desire to encourage other Saudi women to chase their dreams. “Saudi females are the most untapped resource that Saudi Arabia has,” she said.
The government of Saudi Arabia has had a long-standing public awareness program about birth defects that arise due to consanguineous marriages. The program appears to have not been terribly effective, according to this story from Saudi Gazette.
Globally, birth defects occurs at the rate of 1 in 33 births. In Saudi Arabia, it’s 1 in 24 or, depending to the source, perhaps 1 in 12.
Most Saudis are reported to be unaware of the prevalence. The government mandates pre-marital genetic testing, but they only test for two conditions. There are thousands of possible defects. It’s being suggested that if families have a history of any defects, the risks of those defects should be assessed. That sound like a good starting place.
A broader, heavier, and louder public awareness program might be in order as well.
Saudis ‘unaware of high birth defect rate’
Joshua Hoey, Saudi Gazette
People in the Kingdom are generally unaware of the high occurrence of birth defects in the country, according a leading clinical geneticist working with the Saudi Society of Medical Genetics.
Dr. Amal Hashem said as part of World Birth Defects Day on March 3, the society organized information booths at Riyadh’s Granada and Kingdom malls to raise awareness of the risks posed by birth defects.
She claimed that people were interested in their message but largely unaware of the high occurrence of deformities.
“At the beginning, women would ask ‘what is going on?’
“We would explain and show them that prevalence was higher and most of them would be surprised.”
Marking International Women’s Day, Al Arabiya TV posts several (mostly undated) photos of the early days of women’s education in Saudi Arabia, something that’s only 60 years old. It’s quite a jump from a state of no education to now comprising a majority of university graduates.
A series of photographs made available by the Saudi Press Agency detail the history of female education in Saudi Arabia.
The pictures show young girls huddled next to each other in class, while others show some of the older educational institutions in the Kingdom.
The photographs were collected from public and private libraries and public records.
Apparently lacking anything more important to do, Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has decided to wade into the issue of what female TV presenters wear while on the air, according to this Arab News report. They’re not entirely out of sync with Saudi society, though, as many were outraged when a female Saudi diplomat at the UN had the effrontery to address the Security Council while not wearing hijab and abaya.
Can one be Saudi without wearing national costume? Apparently not.
Shoura passes dress code law for women TV anchors
JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
The Shoura Council has passed a new law that would make it mandatory for women TV anchors working in the Kingdom to wear modest dress and not show off their beauty.
Ahmed Al-Zailaee, chairman of the media committee at the consultative body, said once the law is passed by the Cabinet it would apply to all women media workers in the Kingdom, including those of MBC and Rotana.
Latifa Al-Shualan, a Shoura member, expressed surprise at the council’s interest in the dress code of women TV anchors, and said there are other more important issues to tackle.
“There are many other pressing issues such as the danger posed by the media activities of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group,” she said.
Saudi Arabia’s statistical department has released new figures on unemployment in the Kingdom, stating that the average unemployment is now 11.7% (5.9 percent among men; 32.5 percent among women). It sees the reduction as a result of government efforts to put more Saudis into jobs, that is, the Nitiqat Saudization program.
The Arab News article goes on to note that not everyone is accepting the official numbers, claiming that unemployment is significantly higher.
Saudi jobless rate down to 11.7%: Nitaqat pays off
JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
The Nitaqat nationalization program was successful in bringing down the Kingdom’s unemployment rate to 11.7 percent — 5.9 percent among men and 32.5 percent among women, said the Central Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI).
In a statement issued on Sunday, the department put the total number of unemployed Saudis at 650,000, including 258,000 men and 392,000 women.
The department, which comes under the Ministry of Economy and Planning, said reports on unemployment rate in the Kingdom published by some newspapers and other media organizations were not correct.