As an anthropologist, I’m wondering if the Shoura Council has ever investigated the reasons behind spinsterhood in Saudi society? Perhaps I could suggest a few examples to give them a head start:
1. Could it be the high mahr some Saudi women demand (in addition to the gold, house, driver and maid), making foreign women more affordable to Saudi men?
2. Is the Saudi woman’s family refusing to let her marry a non-Saudi man or anyone outside of their tribe?
3. It has been my observations that it is considered ‘ayb (shame) for Saudi woman to approach her family and inform them that she wants to marry so and so. Rather she should wait for men to come to her family and ask for her hand. In some cases, I have heard of the father or male family members repeatedly rejecting compatible suitors due to varying reasons until the woman is well past the desired “marriageable” age.
4. What about the father who wants to keep his working daughter at home, unmarried, so that he can continue to partake of her wealth? Abdullah Al-Dani discusses this in-depth in his article, “Adl”: Why Many Saudi Women Remain Unmarried
5. Times are a changin’ and so are Saudis! Saudi women are getting an education and working before they marry which also puts them past the desired “marriageable” age.
6. Saudi men are studying/traveling abroad and residing alongside different cultures that do not segregate the sexes. This puts them in direct contact with the opposite sex and allows for them to get to know them without the constraints and restrictions of Saudi society. They often marry the foreign women they “fall in love with” with or without approval from the Saudi government and remain living with them outside of Saudi Arabia.
7. This might be hard to digest but some Saudi women choose to remain unmarried if they can’t marry whom they fancy or if they don’t have to get married at all (meaning their family doesn’t place emphasis on marriage or will continue to provide for them). They are seriously prejudiced against Saudi men because of their “bad” attributes and from hearing about other Saudi womens’ horrible experiences with Saudi men: abusive, not treating women fairly, encroaching upon their basic and Islamic rights, infidelity, promiscuity, divorcing women on a whim, taking children away from mothers who are still breastfeeding or who has not remarried and her children are under the age of seven. I think I’ll stop right here. Oh yeah, this happens around the world…and in Saudi Arabia too!
8. The Prophet (peace be upon him) predicted that towards the end of time, there would be more women than men.
Despite the restrictions on Saudis marrying non-Saudis, its apparent that they are still marrying who they want, when they want. If they truly love a foreigner and want to spend the rest of their lives with them, they will find a way to be with them. One such way is circumventing the system. Or not bothering with the system and marrying legally in a foreign country where they can live happily and build a family without repercussions.
If the Saudi government really wants to help eradicate spinsterhood amongst Saudi women, then they should be part of the solution and not the problem. Part of this would entail making it easier for their citizens to exercise the right to marry whomever they wish and not making them feel hardship and suffer the consequences of choosing a non-Saudi. After all isn’t that what Islam teaches us, ease in the religion? I exhort the Saudi Shoura Council to recall the following hadith: if someone makes things easy for his/her brother in this world, Allah will make it easy for them in the next world.
In conclusion, I hope that no Saudi has been offended by my suggestions as it wasn’t intended as an attack on spinsters or the Shoura Council. Its an honest assessment of the situation however I’m not above correction. I welcome your feedback and comments.
Tara Umm Omar
RIYADH: The Shoura Council yesterday rejected a recommendation to simplify regulations governing Saudis marrying non-Saudis. However, a council session, chaired by its new Vice President Bandar Al-Hajjar, approved other recommendations submitted by Talal Al-Bakri, chairman of the council’s Committee for Social, Family and Youth Affairs.
Hajjar rejected the proposal as the council’s 108 members were equally split over a need to simplify the regulations.
Opponents of the proposal said changes would only exacerbate the problem of spinsterhood in the Kingdom. “Such recommendations would greatly increase the number of Saudis marrying foreigners while we are fully aware of the complications that such marriages create,” said Abdullah Al-Dosary, a council member who voted against the proposal.
Supporters say a good number of such marriages involve old and disabled Saudis, while the young and able find it difficult to marry non-Saudis. They say human relationships have no national boundaries and cross-border marriages would help foster positive ties with non-Saudis. “Marriage is not a political or commercial relationship but is an intimate personal bondage between two humans. Problems arising in such relationships can never be solved by a ban but by tackling them with reason,” said Abdullah Al-Fify.
The council approved other recommendations submitted by the committee. These included setting up of special sections in Saudi missions abroad to deal with the non-Saudi children of Saudi citizens. Several members opposed the clause, arguing that a problem that affects only 465 families in 11 countries did not warrant the opening of special sections in all Saudi embassies.
“Opening new sections would only unnecessarily increase administrative expenses,” said Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Al-Mayman.
Abdul Rahman Al-Yami said the new sections should have full authority to take decisions on all related issues. Other recommendations endorsed by the council included social insurance coverage for children of Saudi men living abroad, and the need for Saudi fathers to arrange citizenship for children born to foreign wives and for Saudis who are not in a position to support their children to approach charities that take care of Saudi families abroad.
More reading on the same subject…
WANT TO MARRY A FOREIGNER? OVER THEIR DEAD BODY
By Ahmed of Saudi Jeans
CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG
By Hning of Hning’s