Got Oppression? Saudi Kingdom Keeps Women in the Stone Age

Dear Saudi Arabia: Has anyone told you it’s the year 2010 and you can stop with the ludicrous rulings scaling back women’s rights and, specifically, their mobility?

Last week, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced four women and 11 men between the ages of 30-40 years to flogging and prison for “mingling at a party.”

While this is absurd, to say the least, it becomes downright hypocritical paired with another news item out of Saudi Arabia earlier this month, when Muslim scholars came up with a hare-brained plan for women to start breastfeeding their male drivers.

It all started when Sheikh Abdul Mohsin al-Abaican, a consultant at the Saudi Royal Court, issued a fatwa (what else?) stipulating that there should be a symbolic bond between unrelated men and women who regularly come into contact with each other.

Since Saudi women are not allowed to drive, one group of men they regularly come into contact with are their male drivers. So another Saudi scholar followed with the brilliant recommendation that women “donate their breast milk to men.” After all, in Islam, breast milk kinship is considered to be as good as a blood, explains the Gulf News. This way the drivers can become the women’s sons, to save women from the sin of going around with men who were not related to them! Yay! Mission accomplished, morality saved!

Before you jump off a bridge over the insanity of this, take a moment to applaud Saudi women, who instead of giving up all hope in this culture of anything-absurd-towards-women-goes, took this opportunity to intensify their campaign to gain the right to drive. Journalist Amal Zahid said that the slogan of the campaign will be: “We either be allowed to drive or breastfeed foreigners!”

While the Saudi authorities continue to pretend they hold the moral high ground, going out of their way to keep the sexes segregated and prevent women from driving, fatwas such as this just go to show who the real perverts are: Saudi men. Saudi men, and “scholars” who would preserve women’s “purity” by not allowing them to mix with men, but telling them it is OK to have strangers suckle on your breast so they become related to you?!

The truth of the matter is, Saudi authorities want to keep denying women the right to drive as part of their larger efforts to curb the mobility of women and in effect, their rights. The less you are able to get around the less you are able to do. It’s the way they hide behind the supposedly religious justification that is the most disgusting part.

Kudos to the women of Saudi Arabia for taking this as an opportunity to expose to the world and keep reminding us of the culture of absurdity they are forced to live in. These women should be congratulated for using the issuing of yet another insane fatwa and flipping it into an opportunity to maybe, one day, winning their right to drive.

A version of this piece was posted on the Huffington Post and Feministing.

Photo courtesy of redeye under Creative Commons 3.0.


  1. Daisy Eagan says:

    While I find this abhorrent and sickening, I would like to urge Ms. Hossain and other journalists to remember not to generalize people so broadly. Calling “Saudi men” perverts because of a sexist (and violating) law is like calling “American men” murderers because the American military is involved in 2 active wars. There are many American men who oppose the wars and are fortunate enough to live in a country in which they can express their dissatisfaction with their government without worrying about being hanged for it. I’m certain there are plenty of Saudi men who find this fatwa disgusting and wouldn’t dream of obeying it. Unfortunately, in countries with extremist regimes, dissenters are not given the same freedoms as we are here.
    Let’s not demonize an entire population because of some (very powerful) extremely fanatical (and possibly insane) men. It’s this kind of generalization that leads to these kinds of damaging laws.

  2. Thank you, Daisy for that very important reminder. Your point on generalization is very true and actually polls show that younger Saudi men support a woman’s right to drive. However, various polls also show that the majority of Saudi men still think that the man should pay for all the family needs, and have rights to jobs over women. I think that speaks to a general support of the status-quo because at the end of the day, it is to their (Saudi men’s) advantage. I have many Saudi friends and sadly I hardly ever (read never) hear them passionately voice support for a strong women’s movement of any kind in their country. That is just a fact. I did not write this article and make that statement despite it generalizing 100% blindly.

  3. Daisy Eagan says:

    Thank you for the response, and for the article in the first place. I would not presume to know much of anything about Saudi culture besides the little I pick up from Western media. I do not doubt, however that it is a country in which women are regularly oppressed, brutalized and killed over things that women in many other countries take for granted.
    Clearly there seems to be a majority view point among Saudi men that women are second class citizens (at best). I only wanted to point out how important it is to remember that people are individuals and to not define a people by those in power.
    Thanks again.

  4. GREAT POST! Thanks for writing something funny in the face of this grim situation. A question – where are these women supposed to GET the breast milk from if they aren’t lactating? Does AMAZON sell personalized breast milk?

  5. Ha, Susan! Great question and great point. We’ll have to check with Amazon about that one 😉 Thank you for your comment!


  1. […] *This post of mine was also published on The Huffington Post and Feministing and Ms. Magazine. […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ms. Magazine and Ms. Magazine. Ms. Magazine said: “Mingling at a party” leaves citizens behind bars. […]

  3. […] In Saudi Arabia women cannot drive because they cannot get a driver’s license (no face picture). Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdul Mohsin al-Abaican recently declared that women should give breast milk to their male drivers so that they can symbolically become their sons. Not sure that this includes breastfeeding, which would neither enhance modesty nor separate the sexes. But it would keep non-milk producing women from driving. (Or could they feed their drivers formula?) Women who cannot afford drivers are pretty much doomed to stay close to home.… […]

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