Women may now be allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia, but they have not yet been granted the privilege of attending a women's rights summit.
In 2012, the Saudi Arabia University of Qassam held one of the biggest women’s rights conferences in the Arab world. The event, which focused around the topic of “Women in Society,” was intended to be held annually at the University. The aim was to set a benchmark for tolerance and progress in the region; impressively, delegates and speakers from more than fifteen countries showed up.
While the conference might sound picturesque, there was one major absurdity: absolutely no women attended the event.
Such is largely a result of Saudi Arabia’s twisted interpretation of Sharia Law. Because it is not acceptable for women and men to share the same lecture space, the conference – about women’s rights and equality – was conducted without the advice or presence of a single female.
Even though women were allowed to vote for the first time last year, they still are banned from a number of activities and have few privileges (compared to women in Western countries). For example, Saudi women cannot drive, swim, compete in sports, wear make-up which might accentuate their beauty, or open a bank account.
The photo below is of the of the conference in 2012.
While there were two women cited in attendance last year, it is still a far cry from the type of audience a women’s rights summit should attract.
The irony is obvious though there is little one can do but call out the hypocrisy.
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