Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia released the above image from their first ever anti-domestic violence campaign. The caption reads “Some things can’t be covered. Fighting women’s abuse together.” This image is a part of Saudi’s “No More Abuse” campaign, released by the King Khalid Foundation, with an outlined objective to “achieve justice for all women and children exposed to abuse.” The campaign has received mixed reactions around the world. Many are praising the monumental step it symbolizes for the advancement of women’s rights in a country where all women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian. However most critics are doubting the credibility or effectiveness of an ad campaign in such a society. Aside from the rules requiring a male guardian’s permission for most activities, women also cannot vote or be elected to high political positions. They are prohibited from driving, and only recently won the right to ride bicycles, with restrictions. According to the Human Rights Watch 2013 report, Women in Saudi are even forbidden from undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians;
In July, after a car chase by religious police left the driver dead and his wife and daughter in critical condition, King Fahd hospital in Baha postponed amputating the wife’s hand because she had no male legal guardian to authorize the procedure, Okaz newspaper reported.
And the human rights violations certainly don’t end there. The HRW’s most recent report details the many atrocities still occurring in Saudi Arabia. The areas of specific concern are; Violations to Freedom of Expression, Belief, and Assembly: Reports of Saudi Arabia stepping up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responding with extreme force to peaceful demonstrations by citizens.
As in past years, thousands of people have received unfair trials or been subject to arbitrary detention. The year has seen trials against half-a-dozen human rights defenders and several others for their peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms.
Criminal Justice and Torture:
Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention. Saudi judges routinely sentence defendants to thousands of lashes. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in January voiced alarm over the use of the death penalty and cruel sentences such as “cross-amputation” of both the right hand and left foot.
Migrant Workers’ Rights: Saudi is home to over 9 million migrant workers, who constitute more than half the workforce. The reports of abuse and labor exploitation are inhumane, and reveal slave-like conditions.
The kafala (sponsorship) system ties migrant workers’ residency permits to “sponsoring” employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or exit the country. Employers abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages, and force migrants to work against their will, against Saudi law. In years past, Asian embassies reported thousands of complaints from domestic workers forced to work 15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and denied their salaries. Domestic workers, most of them women, frequently endure forced confinement, food deprivation, and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.
And finally, the Issue of Women’s and Girls’ Rights: Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls.
…punishment for domestic violence (remains) lax. The government failed to enact a 2011 draft law to combat violence against women and children. In May, Jeddah’s Summary Court convicted a man for physically abusing his wife to the point of hospitalization, but sentenced him to learning by heart five parts of the Quran and 100 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Despite all this, Saudi Arabia remains a key ally of the United States and the European Union. The only criticism brought forward by the US against Saudi human rights violations were through annual reports. The US even concluded a $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, its largest anywhere to date. “Some things can’t be covered” the campaign reads. But in Saudi, it seems it can. Resources: See the ad campaign here Read the full Human Rights Watch Report here