Women in Saudi Arabia: The Fight for the Right to Purchase Lingerie

It isn’t too hard to understand why a fight for the right to purchase lingerie is extremely difficult in a country that prohibits women from voting and driving. The mobilization of Saudi women against oppression in one of the most macho of Arab regimes may be prosaic. Saudi women have come together to demand their right to be able to buy lingerie and for children’s stores to be serviced only by women.

A Saudi labor law promulgated in 2006 allowed for the recruitment of women to sell women’s underwear, but virtually no shop has dared to apply the law. Employers argue that bureaucracy is the reason but everyone knows that it is because of the pressure exerted by the clergy of Shia Wahhabi, one of the most radical implementations of Islam. The existence of religious police, the ‘Mutawa’ah,’ is palpable as they patrol the malls and make sure that there is no contact between the sexes. Sharia Law believes that the only appropriate place for women is the home.

The campaign of Saudi women for their right to buy their own lingerie seems anachronistic in this modern age, as well as seemingly impossible in an authoritarian regime where the laws of Islam predominate. It is still a long uphill struggle for the female sector in Islam to be recognized as free human beings. Adherents of Islam may very well refute this but overwhelming evidence around the world is proof enough. Fact is, Muslim women themselves have been fighting their oppression.

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