In The Saudi Body Politic


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The unparalleled surveillance and punishment of women in public and private spheres through the notorious moral police (Mutaween) is a central mechanism for the Saudi monarchy and its Wahhabi theologians to maintain order and their own supremacy. The kingdom has been lobbying fervently in the United Nations to block an independent inquiry into war crimes its military has committed.Further, she argues that “controlling women’s religiosity, appearance, movement, education, work, economic activity, property and marriage are the most cherished devotions of Saudi religious nationalism, its priesthood and the state”.

Saudi social anthropologist Madawi al-Rasheed has analysed how women are subordinated and excluded from the public domain to maintain the world’s “most masculine state”.Treating women’s liberation as a standalone issue, separate from the broader question of Saudi Arabia’s democratisation, is a reductionist folly.A woman drives a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.The list of forbidden activities for the fairer sex is too voluminous and entrenched in the Saudi body politic to be wiped out clean. Overturning of the ban might minimally improve women’s presence in the Saudi workforce and boost the “Vision 2030” economic diversification blueprint of the new crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Feminists hold that all nation-states, not just hardline Islamic Antimicrobial non-woven fabric ones, are “gendered” to some extent as they are built upon unjust distribution of rights and duties that disadvantage women and legalise their inferiority. She shows how the Saudi state and its allied Wahhabi clerics consciously use suppression of women to forge a unified nationalistic narrative over heterogeneous pre-Islamic tribal traditions and set Saudi Arabia apart as an exceptionally pure Islamic country. Abolishing the whole fulcrum of the guardianship legal frame and the Sharia justifications behind it would amount to implosion of the Wahhabi monarchy itself.But when Saudi women covered in the abaya (head-to-toe loose robes) do start revving engines on the streets, it would not compensate for their overall second-class status in law where their testimony equals half of that of a male Saudi.