Gynophobia Strikes Saudi Arabia: Saudi Women Fighting to be Heard
Psychologists define gynophobia as an abnormal fear of women. The cause may be referred to a bad experience at a young age or mistreatment by society. When society adopts a negative attitude toward women, it deprives a large resource of its potential to be part of its progress and allows seeds of conflict to become stumbling blocks in its natural development.
An extreme case is how the local community perceived the news of the Saudi woman activist Samar Badawi who was presented with the International Women of Courage award early this month in recognition of her exceptional role in advocating women's rights in the country.
Samar was standing between two of the most powerful women in the world, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, with 10 other extraordinary women from different countries. But instead of being considered a national hero by her community, she was looked at as an exploited tool for the foreign agenda.
Many skeptics didn't like the idea that the prize was distributed by the US State Department. The international recognition that Samar is getting is something new and beyond their comprehension of normal life.
Samar is only one of many examples of brave Saudi young women who think it's time to take corrective actions to adjust women's status in Saudi society. The thing they all have in common is that they all face the fear of society for their new active and progressive role. Many issues are waiting to be addressed for women from laws pertaining to male guardianship, education, marriage, divorce, traveling abroad, opening a bank account, voting; to simple human demands as being allowed to drive a car.
The existing status of women as second-class citizens is not accepted by these 21st century Saudi ladies anymore. In many cases, it's not an actual need for new laws for women empowerment as much as a need for cultural adaptation of the new understanding of the growing role of women in modern society.
Social awareness of legal rights and duties is a vital element at this stage. The main constraint for many women is their lack of understanding of the basic legislative rights and the absence of legal knowledge.
Samar didn't receive the award for being a helpless victim. She used law to fight for what she believed to be her religious and basic human rights. She demanded the law to recognize her as a person capable of making her own choice regarding her marriage, and to let her decide how she will lead her life.
She has now submitted a new judicial complaint regarding the rejection of her driving license. She plans to follow up on the case and has vowed not to surrender her right to freedom of movement.
I guess it is going to be harder for gynophobes as the brave Saudi women have started demanding their rights in a very assertive and forceful manner. The strong and confident ladies that occupy the media scene have no intention of backing out till their demands are met.
By Mohammed Alsaif
What steps should women take in order to gain more right? And will Saudi laws ever soften their gynophobic grip?