Wednesday 10 September 2008 (10 Ramadan 1429) 

      Our public opinion on women
      Bushra Faisal Al-Sebaie I Okaz 
      IT is sad that we have to import pictures of the Grand Mosque from China. 
It is also regrettable that if we want to know our own public's opinion on 
certain issues, we have to look overseas and consult organizations such as 

      There had been a lot of discussions in the last decade on the rights of 
women in Saudi society. The argument has finally been settled, at least among 
those concerned. People now differentiate between the rules of Islamic Shariah 
and cultural traditions, which have the upper hand on a number of issues 
concerning Saudi women. Meanwhile, officials have postponed taking a decision 
on these issues because society is not ready to accept more reforms.

      The irony is that we have not heard of a study or a survey outlining the 
opinion of the Saudi public in a scientific and statistical way. However, on 
Dec. 21, 2007, Gallup published the results of a survey of Saudis on women's 
issues. It was clear from these results that the majority of Saudi men were in 
support of women's rights.

      The poll found that 55 percent of men and 66 percent of women were in 
support of women's driving, 75 percent of men and 82 percent of women supported 
the right of women to work in any job they like outside the home, and 83 
percent of both sexes supported the right of women to keep their own income for 

      The Gallup report - commenting on the last finding - said it was 
surprising that Saudi men would support the rights of women on this issue, even 
though it is against their own personal interests.

      The poll also found that 66 percent of men and 79 percent of women 
supported gender equality in legal rights. 

      The report said the concept of total equality means that women would have 
to relinquish some of their rights. In this case, they would have to share 
their income with men or give them some of their assets in case of divorce.

      Finally, the poll found that 66 percent of women and 52 percent of men 
believe that women should occupy leading positions in government establishments.

      The report concluded by saying that after the havoc stirred by the story 
of the "Qatif girl", Saudi men are now more supportive of women's rights. 

      We should have an independent Saudi organization to gauge public opinion. 
In light of the results of this survey, is it possible to see more reforms and 
some qualitative improvements on the condition of women in Saudi Arabia?

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