Saudi Cabinet pledges full support to women’s right




A Cabinet statement said that royal decrees have been issued to protect the rights of women at judicial institutions and tackle delays in this respect. The Cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, on Monday, stressed the government’s resolve to protect the rights of women and prevent violence against them.

The Saudi Press Agency said, quoting the Cabinet, that no measures should be taken in violation of those rights and freedoms except within the framework of Shariah laws. “The meeting emphasised that the rules and regulations to protect the rights of individuals must be followed,” Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani said. It may be noted that Saudi Arabia has signed the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on violence against women, Prof. Yakin Ertuk, who visited Saudi Arabia in February at the government’s invitation to examine the situation and report back to the body’s human rights council, early this year, commended the progress in the kingdom in advancing the status of women but urged more action to prevent gender-based violence and raise their profile in public life.

“Supporting them in their endeavour requires vision, courage, leadership and a firm commitment from the highest levels of the state and the involvement of all sectors of government in consultation with civil society actors,” Ertuk said in a statement. “Women of Saudi Arabia, in full respect of their societal values, appear ready to embark on a new stage of engagement in contributing to the advancement of their society and that of the coming generations of women and men,” Ertuk stated.

Her visit included stops in Riyadh, Buraidah, Jeddah and Dammam. She met with government officials, the head of the Shoura (Consultative) Council and representatives of various segments of the society, including academia, human rights organisations, family protection centres, women’s groups, victims of violence, and women at a prison, as well as representatives of the diplomatic community. She appreciated the government’s cooperation and assistance.

She stressed on the variety of experiences among Saudi women. “There were those who have expressed contentment and satisfaction with their lives. Others have raised concerns of serious levels of discriminatory practices against women that compromise their rights and dignity as full human beings and undermine the true values of their society. And still others shared with me the domestic abuse they systematically encounter with little prospects for redress,” she said.

Among the number of positive developments, Ertuk noted improvements in women’s access to education, but added that it has not been met with a comparable increase in their labour force participation.

“Women are particularly excluded from decision making positions,” she said, and added that the private sector, on the other hand, “appears to offer women potential for greater autonomous space for self actualisation.”

Some professional women and officials said the policy of sex segregation at the work-place constrains them, while others argued that the creation of private sections for women in public space fosters greater participation. “Whatever the preferred modality may be, the infrastructure for women’s equal participation in all government institutions and private businesses needs to be set in place and women’s participation in decision making processes needs to be ensured,” she said.

She welcomed the initiatives taken to address the problem of violence against women and promote awareness raising, referral, and care and protection for victims of violence.


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