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Rights groups reject fatwa allowing Saudi women to work as maids
Academics say domestic work is ‘humiliating’ for KSA nationals.
March 21, 2010 2:39 by Ben Flanagan
Saudi academics and lawyers have rejected a fatwa allowing Saudi women to work as maids, saying such work is ‘humiliating’ for them.
Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi issued a decision two years ago allowing Saudi women to work as house managers and servants.
A fatwa, or religious edict, was subsequently issued by legal adviser Saleh bin Saad Al-Laheedan, who said it is permissible for Saudi women to work as maids if they cannot find other jobs, if they are over 50, and if they are accompanied by a mehram (a close male relative).
But speaking to Islamonline.net, Suhaila Zainul Abideen, a member of the National Society for Human Rights, expressed her surprise at Al-Laheedan’s fatwa. She strongly opposed the idea of Saudi women working as maids.
Abideen said the state is responsible for taking care of women if they are in need of financial assistance. “Where is social insurance?” she asked. She also wondered why scholars were not applying the principle when it comes to other issues such as women driving and mingling with the opposite sex.
Abideen asked whether any family would allow their womenfolk to work along with their mehrams, and urged the concerned authorities to take up the matter with King Abdullah, who she said would not accept the ‘humiliation’ of Saudi women. Al-Laheedan should have instead asked the authorities to make monthly payments to poor Saudi women, Abideen added.
Fahd Al-Johani, dean of student affairs at Taif University, also opposed Al-Laheedan’s fatwa, saying working as maids would force women to violate certain Islamic principles. He said Al-Laheedan should have considered the present condition of maids before giving his fatwa.
Ibrahim Al-Saqhabi, a Saudi, said it is shameful for the ministry and Al-Laheedan to allow Saudi women to work as maids. “Saudi Arabia has the financial ability to support its poor women by paying them monthly salaries, instead of allowing them to work as maids,” he said.