It has absorbed the Western media because it is clear, easy to understand and outrageous. That would be Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving.
Bloomberg reports that Saudi women are petitioning Subaru to pull out of the country until the ban on driving is ended:
The campaign caps a series of developments that began in May, when Saudi women used the Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. social-networking websites to call for females with international driver’s licenses to use their cars June 17. They said their plan wasn’t a protest. Saudi Arabia, holder of the world’s biggest oil reserves, has avoided the anti-government demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world this year.
“This is already the largest women’s rights movement in Saudi history and no one here knows what will happen next, but a big company like Subaru pulling out could help change our country forever,” the women’s group said.
But, of course, driving isn’t the half of it. The State Department’s human rights report, put out in April, documents the dismal status of women:
Rape is a punishable criminal offense under Sharia with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution. Generally the government enforced the law based on its interpretation of Sharia, and courts punished both the victim and the perpetrator. The government views marital relations between spouses as contractual and did not recognize spousal rape. By law a female rape victim is at fault for illegal “mixing of genders” and is punished along with the perpetrator. . . . There were no laws criminalizing violence against women. Officials stated that the government did not clearly define domestic violence and that procedures concerning cases, and accordingly enforcement, varied from one government body to another. . . . Discrimination against women was a significant problem. After her 2008 visit, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women, while acknowledging progress in the status of women and particularly women’s access to education, noted the lack of women’s autonomy, freedom of movement, and economic independence; discriminatory practices surrounding divorce and child custody; the absence of a law criminalizing violence against women; and difficulties preventing women from escaping abusive environments.
Women continued to face discrimination under the law and remained uninformed about their rights. Although they may legally own property and are entitled to financial support from their guardian, women have few political or social rights, and society does not treat them as equal members. The law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, but men may marry Christians and Jews. Women may not marry noncitizens without government permission; men must obtain government permission only if they intend to marry noncitizens from outside Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
And then there is the non-legal, social discrimination, as the State Department notes: “When unrelated men are present, women must sit in separate, specially designated family sections. They are not allowed to consume food in restaurants that do not have such sections. . . . Women faced discrimination under family law and under Sharia inheritance law. Courts awarded custody of children when they attained a specified age (seven years old for boys and nine years old for girls) to the divorced husband or the deceased husband’s family. In numerous cases former husbands prevented divorced noncitizen women from visiting their children. Under Sharia inheritance laws, daughters receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers.”
While the treatment of women rarely raises any eyebrows in the West (the ultimate bigotry of low expectations), outrageous instances, including child brides, lashings, and honor killings do manage to interrupt from time to time the virtual 24/7 media and faux-human rights groups’ obsession with the one Middle East country with full equality for women (Israel).
So what about our secretary of state, the supposed feminist leader extraordinaire? Well, she must be badgered into registering disapproval of the Kingdom of Saud. As this report notes:
After initially remaining silent, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bowed to international pressure this week and voiced support for Saudi Arabian women seeking to lift the kingdom’s Islam-based ban on women driving.
“What these women are doing is brave, and what they are seeking is right. I’m moved by it, and I support them,” Mrs. Clinton, an outspoken feminist, told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.
Mrs. Clinton’s comments supporting the group Saudi Women for Driving came a day after State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the secretary chose not speak out on the issue publicly, but supported universal human rights through “quiet diplomacy.”
That is pretty much par for the course from the “leading from behind” administration. If the Obama team really wanted to cultivate democracy and freedom in the Middle East (not to mention economic progress which necessitates participation of more than half of the available workforce) it may want to get out in front of these developments. It’s not like there isn’t anything to talk about.