ISSN 2330-717X

Saudi Arabia: Toilets For Ladies, Please – OpEd


By Abdullah Al Alami

International media reported last week that Rep. Diane Black got an up-close look at gender segregation in Saudi Arabia.

The Congresswoman came to Riyadh on an official visit with eight other House members, including three other women.

When the lady lawmakers asked to use the bathroom after a lengthy discussion, they ran into an unexpected challenge: No women’s restroom!

“It was kind of like, hmm, OK, I’ve heard about oppression, but really there are just some things that are natural and biological,” Black said with a laugh in an interview last week.

As usually the case with our friends, the Americans, the male lawmakers on the trip offered to stand outside the men’s restroom while the women used it. Apparently that option was not well received and Congresswomen decided they’d just follow a well-known US policy of “wait and see.”

I am not surprised that we didn’t seem bothered by the lawmakers’ predicament. No women work in government offices anyway.

I’m sure the experience was astonishing for the women lawmakers, but they didn’t complain because they understood they were in another country with different rules.

Rules? What rules? I know that there is gender discrimination throughout the Middle East, but the delegation did not face this embarrassing challenge in Qatar, Turkey or the United Arab Emirates. Actually The World Economic Forum 2011 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 131th out of 135 countries for gender parity, ahead of only Mali, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen.

I believe this is the ladies’ mistake. I am surprised that a superpower that could locate any leakage on earth — and on the Moon — could not find out that a bathroom for ladies is not to be found here.

The term “leak” can also refer to the unintended release of private or secret information by an organization. Once again, “leaks” were made possible for confidential diplomatic documents via WikiLeaks — the organization which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information including the publication of some 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables. However, in this case we managed to make it virtually difficult to facilitate the flow of one simple diplomatic leak.

Talking about “leaks,” it is absolutely normal to find leakages in any of our so-called “international airports.” I fly regularly between cities during the week and I find the same leakage in the Men’s Room at Jeddah airport repeating itself in any of our other multibillion billion-dollar airports.

I’m not leaking a secret by stating that we’re famous for discriminating against women’s requirements, widely known in other cultures as “rights.” These include women rights for education, scholarships, travel, seeking employment, receiving medical care, getting married and alimony unless these rights were formally approved and legally authenticated by a male guardian or “Mahram.” There’s also her right to catch up with men in senior positions and drive her own life in her own way. As leaks are sometimes sized by flow rate as volume of fluid passing per time unit, Saudi women face a challenging flow rate of slow development that have little respect for volume or time.

Technically speaking, if there is a leak in a unit, its isolation valves can be shut to “isolate” the unit from the rest of the plant. As such, we need to get women involved and refrain from isolating them from the rest of our society.

Going back to the Congresswoman’s incident —which by the way has already been reported by major international publications — I guess the story will be jokingly repeated in the Oval Office and Capitol Hill many times in the foreseeable future.

Tweet: Leaks may be caused by punctures or fracture. It’s about time we repair the damage.

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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