Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saudi Girls Getting Smarter or Getting Exploited???

I recently chanced upon a news report online about a pre-teen girl from Saudi Arabia who won her divorce from her 80-year-old husband. After reading the brief article I must say I am pretty impressed by the way the girl and her family handled the entire matter. I don’t know whether to term this incident as an evidence of empowerment or exploitation of women. Maybe my readers will help me arrive at a suitable conclusion.

Let me present some facts of the case according to what I read in the original news report. Apparently the girl willingly married her 80-year-old relative (father’s cousin) a year ago. In the bargain the girl’s father received a dowry of $22,000, a small fortune I must say. A year later she decides that she doesn’t want to remain married to a man old enough to be her great-grandfather and approaches a human rights group to files for a divorce.

The state-run human rights agency takes up her case and privately settles her divorce case. At the end of a year the girl is $22,000 richer and FREE. The news report doesn’t comment about whether the dowry amount was returned or not. I guess it was not, because if it were to have changed hands the girl and her family would have screamed from the top of the tallest building in Saudi Arabia.

She can now go to school, probably emigrate to the US where she will be welcomed because she fought against the oppressive patriarchal society in Saudi Arabia, find a young boyfriend, get married and settle down. She could simultaneously invest the $22,000 she got as dowry last year and use it to pay for her college.

Fantastic idea indeed. She declared to the court that she married the 80-year-old man willingly, out of “filial respect to her father”.

This is where my dilemma comes from. I understand that what happened to the girl in question is totally unfair and the father and family of the girl who agreed to Sell for $22,000 to their aged relative are completely at fault. At the same time I can’t help but marvel at the smartness of the girl who managed her family and get rid of her husband and still be $22,000 richer. Alternatively I wonder whether the father of the girl conspired with his family and manipulated the young girl’s feelings and made her do and say things she did and said.

If it were the first instance then the 80-yr-old man tried to exploit the girl’s family and got exploited in return... kinda tit for tat. If it were the second case where the girl handled the case by her own smartness, then I must say there will be lots of changes in Saudi Society in the decades to come. If it is the third case where the father orchestrated the entire incident, then I would say this is no different from any other oppressive, and exploitative incident against women in such societies.

I’d be interested to know your opinions on this subject.

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