10/22/2016, 14.44
SAUDI ARABIA
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Young female music students need male guardians in Jeddah

Girls and young women who want to attend one of the city's music clubs require the approval of their father or legal guardian. This comes after some parents protested. More and more girls enrol to learn to play the piano, organ or guitar without their parents’ knowledge.

Jeddah (AsiaNews) – Music and arts clubs in Jeddah, a Saudi city on the Red Sea, say girls can only join if they have the approval of their father or legal guardian

This confirms that women in the Arab country remain legally bound to a man, i.e. father, husband or guardian. The contradicts a recent online petition signed by thousands of women against such an archaic and burdensome system.

Arab Gulf News reports that new rule was introduced after some parents complained that they were not aware that their daughters were enrolled in music clubs and learning to play instrument, said Nizar Rami, a supervisor in one of the clubs.

Under the rule, a student’s father or legal custodian must be physically present as the application to join or to take courses in music or arts is submitted in order to ensure they do not wade into difficulties with families, the clubs said.

Fees for joining a music or art club in the Red Sea city US$ 800 and the musical training of members includes the use of the piano, the organ and the guitar.

“The coaching of the girls will be carried by Arab women trainers on an individual basis and the cost of the one-to-one training is SR400 (US$ 100). The full course consists of seven different training sessions,” Nizar said.

Male supervision is necessary because more and more girls in Saudi Arabia have become interested in music, in particular, playing instruments.

“They are often looking for enhancing their skills and aptitudes in the arts and music particularly, and the clubs provide them with training on the piano, organ and guitar,” Nizar said.

Under Saudi Arabia’s strict Wahhabi Sunni interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to drive and must be authorised by a male relative – father, husband, brother or son if widows - even to work or study. If a woman is caught driving, she could get ten lashes.

Few women have tried to challenge the rule. One is activist Wajiha Huwaidar, who launched a courageous campaign for the freedom to drive in 2008 by posting a video on YouTube showing herself behind the steering wheel of a car. The video went viral but nothing changed.

Only in recent years have there been some timid and very partial attempts at openness, due to the monarchy rather than a change in mindset.

In 2011, the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz decided that women could run for and vote in municipal elections (in 2015), after women launched a protest on social media demanding the right to vote.

The monarch also granted women the right to stay in hotels without a letter from their husbands, a decision that made it easier to travel for business reasons.

He also appointed the first female deputy minister, established the first mixed university, and banned men from working as clerks in shops selling women’s lingerie and perfume. The new King Salman, who came to the throne in January 2015, has upheld the concessions.

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