08/13/2009, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi Activist: gender equality, the first step to a true social development

Bahija Bint Baha Azzi denounces "cultural factors" that have led women to become "victims of attacks" and are the cause of "social conflict". Laws based on the fatwa are "faulty” as incapable of "solving the problems of today."

Jeddah (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A series of "cultural factors" have led to women, especially Muslim women, becoming "the victims of attacks" in the Arab world and beyond. Some societies are characterized by "cultures that marginalize women," instilling "discrimination between the sexes, which results in conflict." So says Bahija Bint Baha Azzi, secretary general of the International Organization for Muslim Women and the family (Imowf), in an interview to the Saudi "Female" magazine Roaa.

The activist, adviser to the Saudi Shura Council, says that "to exclude women from public affairs is not helping development"; real social growth needs a policy of "equal dignity" between men and women without discrimination”.  Referring specifically to Saudi women, Bahija Bint Baha Azzi points to "an erroneous conception of habits and traditions" that have negative effects - even if specific cases were not cited - in the way they are treated.

Social problems and equality of treatment between men and women "can not be attributed to a single reason," because "there is a culture made by customs and traditions" that led to "a loss, for women, of part of their status and certain rights. " The Imowf, non-profit organization that counts on the support of donors, is working to "achieve social and family security". "We try - continues the activist - to educate and promote social awareness by using all modern technologies such as internet and web sites devoted to the problems of women, children and the family. It is one way to communicate and interact with as many people as possible. "

Bahija Bint Baha Azzi also points denounces the use of fatwas - the responses of Muslims judges or experts on questions that may relate to any aspect of life - part of a “faulty” system of law. "Women are the first and only victims – the activist concludes - of these forms of independent law, although they are enacted with the best intentions, because they are not able to solve the problems of today." The activists views add to small signs of change in Saudi society, that is characterized by its’ strict observance of the precepts of Islam. The life of a woman in Saudi Arabia is punctuated by the permissions that the men have to give before they can do everything from driving a car to staying overnight in a hotel for work reasons.
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