Template:Discrimination sidebar Saudi Arabia's treatment of women ,Non-Muslims, and others can be seen as apartheid, analogous to South Africa's treatment of non-whites during South Africa's apartheid era.[1][2][3]

Those who use this analogy argue that Saudi Arabia has a system of control including separate schools, inequities in legal rights, unequal access to property and jobs, and restrictions on freedom of movement imposed only on Women and Non-Muslims.[4][5][6][7]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that the government misrepresents practice regarding women's rights. A July 2009 report states:[8]

Saudi officials continue to require women to obtain permission from male guardians to conduct their most basic affairs, like traveling or receiving medical care, despite government assertions that no such requirements exist....The government made its assertions most recently in June 2009, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva....Saudi doctors have confirmed that Health Ministry regulations still require a woman to obtain permission from her male guardian to undergo elective surgery. In late June, Saudi border guards at the Bahrain crossing refused to allow the renowned women's rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaider to leave the country because she did not have her guardian's permission, al-Huwaider told Human Rights Watch....

"The Saudi government is saying one thing to the Human Rights Council in Geneva but doing another thing inside the kingdom," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Critics have referred to Saudi Arabia's practices with respect to women as "gender apartheid",[9]


Freedom of religion does not exist. Islam is the official religion, and all citizens must be Muslims. The Government prohibits the public practice of other religions.

File:Mecca road sign.jpg

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy and the Government has declared the Holy Koran and the Sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad to be the country’s Constitution. The Government bases its legitimacy on governance according to the precepts of the rigorously conservative and strict interpretation of the Salafi or Wahhabi school of the Sunni branch of Islam and discriminates against other branches of Islam. Neither the Government nor society in general accepts the concepts of separation of religion and state, and such separation does not exist.The legal system is based on Sharia (Islamic law), with Shari'a courts basing their judgments largely on a code derived from the Quran and the Sunna. The Government permits Shi'a Muslims to use their own legal tradition to adjudicate noncriminal cases within their community.[10]

As an Islamic State, Saudi Arabia gives preferential treatment for Muslims. While allowing foreigners to come and work, Saudi Arabia prohibits the burial of Non-Muslims on Saudi soil[11] Non-Muslims have no rights and are often treated like animals, being called "Grandsons of Pigs and Apes" [12]

Identity CardsEdit

Women in Saudi Arabia are registered on their father or husbands' identification card. In 2006, Saudi Arabia's government announced its intention to issue, for the first time, independent identification cards for women.[13]

The Ulema, Saudi's religious authorities oppose the idea of issuing separate identity cards for women. Many other conservative Saudi citizens argue that cards, which show a woman's unveiled face, violate the Shariah and the Saudi custom.[14]

Currently, only 2000 Saudi women have applied for and received their cards. Most women of religious family background refuse to do so.[15]

Proponents are modernists who argue that new female identity cards would enable a woman to carry out her activities with ease and also to prevent forgeries committed in the name of women in the absence of identification.

Prior to 2008, women were not allowed to enter hotels and furnished apartments when unaccompanied mahram. With a 2008 Royal Decree, however, the only requirement needed to allow women to enter hotels are their national identification cards, and the hotel must inform the nearest police station of their room reservation and length of stay.[16]


In 2000 the Saudi government reported that it had sentenced nine Saudi men to extensive prison terms with lashing for engaging in cross-dressing and homosexual relations.[17] That same year the government executed three Yemeni male workers for homosexuality and child molestation.[18]

In April 2005, the government convicted over a hundred men of homosexuality, but none were sentenced to be executed. All those men were given prison sentences with flogging because they were at a private party that was either a same-sex wedding ceremony or a birthday party.[19] Yet, not long after a gay foreign couple was sentenced to death for homosexuality and allegedly killing a man who was blackmailing them for homosexuality[citation needed].

In May 2005, the government arrested 92 men for homosexuality, who were given sentences ranging from fines to prison sentences of several months and lashings. Likewise, on November 7, 2005 Riyadh police raided what the Saudi press called a "beauty contest for gay men" at al-Qatif. What became of the five men arrested for organizing the event, is not known. [20]

Persons caught living in the kingdom illegally, are often accused of other crimes, involving illegal drugs, pornography, prostitution and homosexuality. Several such police crackdowns were reported in 2004 - 2005[21]. Another similar raid in 2008, netted Filipino workers arrested on charges of alcohol and gay prostitution[22]. The Arab News article on the arrests stated, "Gay rights are not recognized in the Middle East countries and the publication of any material promoting them is banned".[23]

International protests from human rights organizations prompted some Saudi officials within the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington D.C. to unofficially imply that their kingdom will only use the death penalty when someone has been convicted of child molestation, rape, sexual assault, murder or engaging in anything deemed to be a form of political advocacy. [24]

By notablesEdit

Andrea Dworkin refers to these Saudi practices regarding women simply as "apartheid":

Seductive mirages of progress notwithstanding, nowhere in the world is apartheid practiced with more cruelty and finality than in Saudi Arabia. Of course, it is women who are locked in and kept out, exiled to invisibility and abject powerlessness within their own country. It is women who are degraded systematically from birth to early death, utterly and totally and without exception deprived of freedom. It is women who are sold into marriage or concubinage, often before puberty; killed if their hymens are not intact on the wedding night; kept confined, ignorant, pregnant, poor, without choice or recourse. It is women who are raped and beaten with full sanction of the law. It is women who cannot own property or work for a living or determine in any way the circumstances of their own lives. It is women who are subject to a despotism that knows no restraint. Women locked out and locked in.[25]

Others refer to these practices as "sexual apartheid".[26][27] Colbert I. King quotes an American official who accuses Western companies of complicity in Saudi Arabia's sexual apartheid:

One of the (still) untold stories, however, is the cooperation of U.S. and other Western companies in enforcing sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms, for instance, maintain strictly segregated eating zones in their restaurants. The men's sections are typically lavish, comfortable and up to Western standards, whereas the women's or families' sections are often run-down, neglected and, in the case of Starbucks, have no seats. Worse, these firms will bar entrance to Western women who show up without their husbands. My wife and other [U.S. government affiliated] women were regularly forbidden entrance to the local McDonald's unless there was a man with them."


This comparison of Saudi and South African apartheid, and the different Western attitudes to both, has been made before. Recently, journalist Mona Eltahawy argued that while oil is a factor, the real reason Saudi teams aren't kicked out of the Olympics is that "Saudis have succeeded in pulling a fast one on the world by claiming their religion is the reason they treat women so badly." Islam, she points out, does take other forms—in Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia, and elsewhere. But Saudi propaganda, plus our own timidity about foreign customs, has blinded us to the fact that the systematic, wholesale Saudi oppression of women isn't dictated by religion at all, but rather by the culture of the Saudi ruling class.[29]

See alsoEdit

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:


  1. Jessica Renee Long (March 78, 2005). "Taking the Gender Apartheid Tour in Saudi Arabia". Women's e-news. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  2. Handrahan, L. M. (August 2001), (PDF)Human Rights tribune 8 (1), archived from the original on 2008-10-02,,%20Volume%208,%20No.%201,%202001.pdf, retrieved 2007-08-21 
  3. Andrea Dworkin (1978). "A Feminist Looks at Saudi Arabia". Andrea Dworkin on Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  4. Mona Eltahawy, Punished for being raped, November 29, 2007, International Herald Tribune [1]
  5. Anne Appelbaum, The Wahhabi Woman ProblemWhy no campaigns against Saudi Arabia's institutionalized sexism? Slate, Dec. 17, 2007 [2]
  6. Pamela Bone, Why we stay mute on Islamic sex apartheid, The Australian, December 07, 2007 [3]
  7. Klein, John M., Ethics for International Business: Decision-Making in a Global Political Economy, Routledge, 2005, p. 180
  9. Handrahan (2001).
  13. Arab women
  14. Saudi women get identity cards
  15. Shahidi Sadiq, Women in Saudi Arabia, pg 33
  16. Jomar Canlas, Reporter (January 25, 2008), Saudi prince assures RP govt they respect rights of women, The Manila Times,, retrieved 2008-01-25 
  25. Dworkin (1993).
  26. "The end result of this is that Saudi men have no opportunity to learn how to interact in a non-sexual way with women and so the system of sexual apartheid persists (Whitaker 2006)." Bradley (2007), p. 130.
  27. Stromquist (2002), p. 148
  28. King (2001).

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