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Monday, September 26, 2016

Saudi Women Are Tired of Being "Owned" by Men

Women in Saudi Arabia are petitioning the king to end the practice of male guardianship, which dramatically limits their life chances. The most obvious example of this is that women cannot drive alone, but there are many other examples, as the story in today's Wall Street Journal makes clear. "Legally, Saudi women need permission from a male guardian—typically a father, husband or son—to marry, travel outside the kingdom or study abroad, among other things." The woman leading the telegram petition drive has felt the pain:
Ramyah, 37, who led the telegram initiative, feels strongly about ending guardianship because of personal experience. A college-educated nurse, for years she was her family’s main breadwinner, supporting her unemployed husband. Even then, her husband refused to let her travel.
When she obtained a divorce and moved back with her parents, her guardianship—she calls it “ownership”—returned to her father.
“At work, I am very respected,” said Ramyah. “But when I come home I have another personality: I am a child again.”
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most extreme case of a country in which women have been given access to education and the labor force, but where the culture at home remains very traditional and oppressive of women. To be sure, Saudi Arabia is not a low fertility country, but its birth rate has dropped considerably over the past few decades. Since 1985, the TFR has dropped from 7 children per woman to "only" 2.8, as I noted earlier this year.  The Saudi economy's reliance on oil means that it cannot afford to have a continued huge increase in population. A third of its population is under the age of 15, according to data from the latest PRB World Population Data Sheet. Economic survival really depends on the liberation of women and a continued sharp drop in the birth rate. 


  1. Thank you for this. I hope that Saudi women will be granted greater freedoms.

    But I think this is not likely. Given the plummeting birth rates in the West and vibrant fertility in many (but not all) Muslim countries, what we are seeing is steady migration from the Muslim world to the West.

    And many (certainly not all) of those Muslims who migrate to the West want the financial benefits of living in the West but without the concomitant cultural commitments (i.e., rule of law, equality before the law of all people, equal rights for women and LGBT).

    In democracies people determine the laws (more or less). As the demos becomes more and more a Muslim demos, I don't see any other scenario.

    The West in the future will resemble Saudi more, and not the other way around.

    Or am I missing something?

    Thanks for the blog as always.

    1. Yikes! I hope you are wrong, of course, but I do think that a lot of people worry that you might be right.