In a world that has progressed immensely in the societal domain, where society strives to shrug off the remaining bits of misogyny and male chauvinism, it is dispiriting to observe the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Women require the permission of their guardian men, mahram, to perform the simplest of tasks, like opening a bank account. At the same time, ironically, there is a stronger presence of women on university campuses than that of men. However, in a kingdom that is under the choking grips of staunch senior clerics, there is little space for the progress of women.
Majd Abdulghani, a twenty year old girl living in Saudi Arabia, provides us with very insightful episodes into her life. As she records on her microphone for a Podcast by Radio Diaries, the deep sense of passion and hope in her voice is quite palpable. Majd is different from the other girls. There is an innate sense of questioning the norms that her mother and the rest of her family seem to have easily accepted.
Being a country that has no minimum age restrictions for the marriage of women, Majd started receiving proposals from men since she turned 19. As a bachelor’s student in King Saud University with a brimming with a desire to study and make a difference to the world, though, Majd confessed she had no intentions of marrying anyone so soon.
Majd shares a pretty casual relationship with her four brothers and her parents. Her work in the university genetics lab involves interactions with men, which, according to her, is a little strange, but not unnerving. There are certain rules she has to follow, though, like completely avoid shaking hands, or any other form of body contact. Her family has accepted this as her field of work, so they don’t have a problem.
Karate at the female gym in Saudi Arabia is her passion. She refers to it as The Fight Club. Taking Karate classes is very unusual for girls in the Arabic country, something her father had picked on. He had already expressed he wished her to discontinue with Karate, since it makes her less feminine. But her parents fail to understand that Karate is more than just physical training for her – its an art, its something she can lose herself in, and not think about anything else at that time. They want her to start getting accustomed to the kitchen, so she could fulfill her responsibilities as a wife and keep her husband happy in the future. That is how the society looks at women and marriage in Saudi Arabia – performing wifely duties and taking care of home – something that seems illogical to Majd.
It is mandatory for women to wear an abaya, a long black over-garment, and a niqab, that is worn over the face so that they don’t “show off their beauty”. Her brother believes there should be an opening for only one eye in the niqab, so that a maximum area is covered. While it is again unfair and misogynistic, Majd looks at this custom with a unique set of eyes. She says the prospect of walking down the streets fully covered from head to toe is quite exhilarating. In the university, which houses separate campuses for men and women, Majd can roam freely without the abaya, and wear make up, and truly be herself, which is a more liberating experience.
A year later, studying at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST), Majd received another proposal from a boy, who is well-mannered and polite, according to her parents. Agreeing to meet with him and bearing just a one percent chance of saying yes, she traveled back to her hometown from her dorms in the University.
On the day of the meet, Majd saw “the guy” asking her hand for marriage, and found him pretty handsome. And like all couples that always start with their first awkward and nervous conversations, Majd and the man shared greetings and introduced themselves. Majd was content with his answers. Anmar wanted to come up with an invention to change the way energy is used in Saudi Arabia, and he didn’t seem to mind that her interests were Karate and genetics. But the one statement that he said stuck with her: “We’ll push each other to the top.”
Since her marriage with Anmar, Majd has been accepted into a masters program in genetics, and is well on the way to achieve her dreams. Even the shackles of society hasn’t held her back in being fulfilling everything that she believes in, and this helps her stand out as a paradigm for other women in Saudi Arabia.
-By Saurabh Bodas
Saurabh is pursuing engineering and is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle: saurabhbodas96
There is so much to be said about it all – but here I only want to focus on the leftist’s latest favorite topic : Menstruation.
A survey conducted in USA in 1981 showed that a substantial majority of U.S. adults and adolescents believed that it is socially unacceptable to discuss menstruation, especially in mixed company. Many believed that it is unacceptable to discuss menstruation even within the family. Studies in the early 1980s showed that nearly all girls in the United States believed that girls should not talk about menstruation with boys, while more than one-third of girls did not believe it appropriate to discuss menstruation with their father.
In Hindu culture, a girl who achieved menarche, or her first period, was feted, and pampered at a ceremony where family and close friends gathered and lavished gifts on her. The girl would be bathed in fragrant water after applying oil, turmeric etc. she would be bedecked in fine clothes, flowers and ornaments – and her feet would be washed. This is because Hinduism celebrates, and does not abhor menstruation. The Shakti philosophy upholds it as a gift which is responsible for creation of life.
The Kamakhya Temple in Assam celebrates the annual menstruation of the Goddess – and there is no idol there, just a structure that resembles the yoni, or the female symbol of creation.The Chengannur Temple in Kerala has a tradition of bathing the idol in a grand ceremony after her ‘period’ is over. According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni (genital) fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati. It mentions Kamakhya as one of four primary shakti peethas: the others being the Vimala Temple within the Jagannath Temple complex in Puri, Odisha; Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), near Brahmapur, Odisha, and Dakhina Kalika in Kalighat, Kolkata, in the state of West Bengal, originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati.
The temple remains closed for three days during the Ambubachi mela for it is believed that mother earth becomes unclean for three days like the traditional women’s menstrual seclusion. During these three days some restrictions are observed by the devotees like not cooking, not performing puja or reading holy books, no farming etc. After three days devi Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed to ensure that the devi retrieves her purity. Then the doors of the temple are reopened and prasad is distributed.On the fourth day the devotees are allowed to enter the temple and worship devi Kamakhya.
Many religions have menstruation-related traditions, for example: Islam prohibits sexual contact with women during menstruation in the 2nd chapter of the Quran. In Judaism, a woman during menstruation is called Niddah and may be banned from certain actions. Western civilization, which has been predominantly Christian, has a history of menstrual taboos.
Some Christian denominations, including many authorities of the Eastern Orthodox Church and some parts of the Oriental Orthodox Church advise women not to receive communion during their menstrual period. In certain branches of Japanese Buddhism, menstruating women are banned from attending temples.
In Japan, the religion of Shinto, the Kami, the spirits they worship, would not grant wishes if you had traces of blood, dirt, or death on you. In some portions of South Asia, there is a menstrual taboo, with it frequently being considered impure. Restrictions on movement, behaviourand eating are frequently placed. The Yurok in North America practiced menstrual seclusion. Yurok women used a small hut near the main house.
BONUS FACT: Hinduism is the only mainstream religion which worships God in the female form – for wealth (Lakshmi), education (saraswati), and courage too (Durga) – we worship Goddesses. What greater women empowerment can there be? To accuse Hinduism of gender disparity is beyond ridiculous!
An orchestrated effort is being made, or should I say, has been made for several years now, to denigrate Hindu customs and culture. In the whole uproar over Sabarimala, the issue being tom-tommed by pseudo liberals is Women’s rights – gender equality, and especially the whole taboo surrounding menstruation – and all of it is nothing but a distortion, and concoction, where the narrative is being twisted to suit the agenda of certain vested interests.
In the West, media houses like the BBC and CNN are upholding Kanakadurga and Bindu, who pretended to be transgenders, and were whisked into Sabarimala in ambulances with the support of plains clothes cops, as ‘defenders of women’s rights’.
I do not know if I should shake my head, or tear my hair out in frustration.
With the advent of western education, especially missionary education, Hindus were made to feel that this whole ceremony is horrendous – how can you announce that your daughter has now started menstruating, what an embarrassment, how orthodox, what a shameful ritual, how backward – these were the things we were told. And instead of trying to resist, and make others understand what this ceremony meant, and its deep significance – we (me included) hung our heads in shame, relented, and agreed with them.
Today hardly anybody performs this ceremony for their daughters, because we were taught by those who came from outside that it is taboo, and shameful. We also joined the bandwagon which proclaimed menstruation to be ‘filthy’.
Irony is that today, those very people who first advocated the stopping of ‘shameful and orthodox’ rituals of celebrating menstruation, are mocking Hindus about women entering Sabarimala and turning it into a ‘menstruation taboo’ issue, whereas clearly, it is not that at all.
Today, those very same people are trying to prove themselves as modern and as the harbinger of women’s rights and equality by conducting a festival dedicated to menstruation – styled ‘Aarpo Aarthavam’. It is laughable! The hypocrisy is just unbelievable.
So please stop trying to fool gullible people, because there are still many of us who know the truth. (Hindu Council Of Australia)