When people hear about Saudi Arabia, they draw a picture of a desertcountry with oppressive laws, especially against women. Most peoplehave the perception that Saudi Arabia is a conservative country withstrict and non-flexible laws that inclines to religious practices.Although it may not be easy to dispel these beliefs because some ofthem are still operational, there are various development milestonesthat the government has initiated to enable people to enjoy theirinherent ad constitutional rights. The Saudi Arabian culture isgradually changing, and people should consider the effects of thesetransformations and change the way they view the society.
Saudi Arabia is not only a desert country as many people perceive it,but it is also the second largest producer of oil in the world. Therevenues accrued from the exportation of oil have transformed theeconomic and infrastructural development of the country to a levelthat is beyond that of many countries. The viability of its economythat is oblivious to many people attracts both local andinternational investors and works. The employment levels of thecounty stand at 5.7% and this is lower than that of most countries inthe region (Middle East Policy Council). More than 8.1 million peoplefrom foreign countries work in Saudi Arabia, and they generaterevenue to expand the local economy and the economy of their activehome countries (Middle East Policy Council). If the country were nothabitable by foreigners, as many people perceive, such a big numberof people would not have entered the country in each of employment.
As opposed to many Western countries, the rights of women in SaudiArabia may not be comparable but there are some breathtakingmilestones that have come with the countries development andreception of globalization. In the county women, did not have votingrights o the liberty to run for elective positions. However, KingAbdullah made history by allowing women to vote and vie forpositions. Although he introduced the rule in 2011, it becameoperational in 2015. Contrary to the assumption of many people thatwomen do not take part in making important decisions in the country.The Shoura that consists of 150 members appointed by the king makesimportant recommendations to the cabinet and the king. 20 % of thesemembers are women appointed the king. The number is higher than mostcountries with perceived democratic laws. Also, from the beginning of2015, women got a chance to vie for local representative positionsand battle them out with the men.
The issue of divorce and divorce custody is a major reference pointwhen people want to juxtapose Saudi Arabia with the westerncountries. In most western countries, abortion does not have legalrestrictions and in the case of divorce, the court determines thecustody of children. The court determines custody to the parent whois the responsible for the best interest of the children.Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has similar rules apart from the factthat abortion is illegal unless when the mother’s health is indanger (Le Renard 18). In the case of divorce, the court gives themost responsible parent the custody of the children. In case themother gets the custody the father contributes to their upkeep justlike in the west. These decisions are for the best interest of thechildren. It would, therefore, be misinformed to consider SaudiArabia as an entirely chauvinist society with archaic rules (LeRenard 19).
Another trend that dispels the perception of Saudi Arabia as a desertand conservative country is the government’s efforts to sendstudents to study overseas. The low levels of unemployment in thecountry prove that learners become actively engaged after acquiringthe relevant knowledge. The king’s scholarship program has sentmore tahn130, 000 female students to the overseas country to studywith half of them studying in the United States (Le Renard 21). Whenin the foreign countries, they interact with other internationalstudents, and they return home with diverse ideas and perceptions.Early this year, the king agreed to let women lawyers practice justlike their male counterparts and it was an important milestonetowards gender equality.
In conclusion, most people still consider Saudi Arabia as a desertcountry with conservative rules and insensitive of the changes takingplace in other parts of the world. Most people cite gender equalityas one of the factors that make the country lag behind the democraticcountries. However, allowing the Saudi women to vote and vie for theelective positions proves that the country is on track towardsdemocracy. Also, allowing women to study overseas expose them toglobal trends that might not be present in their country and they arelikely to influence others when they return home (Le Renard 21). Theabortion and child custody rules as determined by the courts are forthe best interests of the children just like in the westerncountries. Although the changes are gradual, people should notperceive Saudi Arabia as a desert country with poor development.
Le Renard, Amélie.A society of young women: opportunities of place, power, andreform in Saudi Arabia. California: Stanford University Press,2014.
Middle EastPolicy Council. A Step Forward for Women in Saudi Arabia. MiddleEast in Focus. Web. 7th Nov. 2015.