Meet Ms. Rajaa Al-Sanea, a twenty-four year old author of the controversial book "Banat Al-Riyadh" or "The Girls of Riyadh", which provides fictitious (but understandably true) accounts of four women living in a gender segregated society. The novel depicts the livelihood of these women, particular their relationship between their male companions (i.e. boyfriends and husbands), and how they're often being manipulated, discarded and isolated when they're no longer deemed "attractive" and "useful". This novel has aroused controversy in a predominantly conservative Muslim society. It has been criticised and downtroddened as a book which sales because of the beauty of the author's look. But it has also received warm support and a revived criticism of women's role in the Saudi society. One journalist observed:
It is our tradition not to talk about the ills of our society. We know there are problems in our society, but the general reaction is to keep quiet. We have been taught from an early age that if we talk about the ills of our society, people will laugh at us. We are seen as role models in the Muslim world. And even when we are not entirely perfect, we should pretend that we are. 'Banat Al-Riyadh' deals with four characters. They may or may not represent all of Saudi society. But yes, we do come across the four fictional characters in our daily lives.There are many other women whom has also spoken out for women's equality in predominantly male society. One prominent figure is Mukhtar Mai. She was gang raped, allegedly on the orders of a village council to punish an offence blamed on her brother. Because of her persisting courage and the willingness to fight against the centry-old practice of discrimination against women, the Western society are more aware of what's going on in Pakistan than a decade ago. And through her and her supporters' relentless protests, women's status and livelihood have become dramatically better than what they're a decade ago, this is especially true in the rural provinces.
So, will we be seeing the same pattern emerging in Saudi Arabia? There could only be an equality between the sexes through persistent and loud protests. This has been repeatedly proven under both the feminist movement and the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's. So, hear me, the Saudi sisters, there is hope and the dream of gender equality is near!
Note: This also applies to sisters living in Indonesia and Iran. Or, any other country which voluntarily imposes the Sharia Laws or any law which suppresses women's rights.