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Conference on Women’s Rights Sparks Debate in Saudi Arabia

Sixty Saudi Arabian academics met this past weekend at the first government-sponsored conference on women’s issues to discuss women’s rights, roles, and education.

According to Women’s eNews, topics discussed ranged from women pushing for the right to drive to women serving on the king’s governing bodies. According to the Christian Science Monitor, women’s issues (such as the high unemployment rate for women and the current divorce laws favor men) were major themes that were debated in several Saudi television programs, newspapers, and radio shows leading up to the three-day conference.

The Saudi television anchor and consultant for the Human Rights Commission, Rania al-Baz, said that Saudi women need address social issues. “The reason more women don’t complain about physical abuse by their husbands is social conditioning. We’re not taught to speak out and ask for our rights. We need to change the way we view ourselves and our lives. We need to change from the inside out,” she said, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Meanwhile, an anti-women’s rights petition was circulated by a small minority of participants at the conference asking attendees to stand against the move for women’s rights, stating that “the purpose of women working and driving cars is to get women out of their homes, which would have negative effects andÉlead to immoral behavior,” reports the Monitor.

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Sources:

Christian Science Monitor 6/14/04; WomenÕs eNews 6/13/04

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