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Imagine You''re a Woman - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Imagine you”re a woman. When your brother is born, people say ”It”s a boy, how wonderful,” yet when you are born they say, ”A little girl, how wonderful!” Why do they use diminutive form? Your arrival is welcome if you are the first or second girl; it is best your mother has no more than two. On the other hand, the arrival of boys is always welcome! The more the merrier, the saying goes.

Imagine you”re a woman. You will always need to seek permission from your guardian not only for your first marriage, according to Islamic legal scholars, but in every other matter. You cannot study without your guardian”s permission, even at the level of PhD and you cannot get a job and earn a living either. Furthermore, many shamelessly argue that a woman must have permission to work even in the private sector.

Imagine you”re a woman and picture your 15-year old son or your brother accompanying you on every journey. Your guardian might request a bribe in return for setting you free from his unwanted company but will not accept cash since his self-respect prevents him from touching a woman”s money. Instead, he will ask for a car or the money to be paid in installments.

Imagine you”re a woman, and you are subject physically abused and maybe even killed. When the press publishes your photograph and exposes the brutality of the beatings, the public will only care whether you were veiled. When the man who broke your ribs is your husband, people will believe there was a reason behind his actions.

Imagine you”re a woman whose husband breaks your nose, arm, or leg. When you file a complaint, the judge responds reproachfully, ”Is that all?” He believes physical abuse to be a natural occurrence amongst all families as the saying goes ”Beating the beloved is like eating raisins.”

Imagine you”re a woman who must be driven in a ‘limousine’ by your Indian or Sri Lankan driver because you yourself are not allowed behind the steering wheel.

Imagine you”re a woman in the 21st century at a time when experts in Islamic law are issuing religious edicts on sexual intercourse with the enemy’s womenfolk, but you do not know to which enemy they refer to.

Imagine you”re a woman who writes in a newspaper, and every time you write about women issues such as poverty, unemployment, and legal issues, they say: ”Never mind her, it is all women”s talk.

Badriyya Al-Bishr

Badriyya Al-Bishr is a lecturer in social sciences at King Saud University

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