Title

Saudi Arabian Women: Hijab Covering

Presenter Information

Kristina Kovalevich

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Start Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

Saudi Arabia has long been considered one of the most conservative states with regard to the gender equality. In the past decade, however, some observers have pointed to changes in Saudi laws and policies regarding women’s rights. In 2000, Saudi Arabia approved the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) treaty. Since ratification of the treaty, new laws and policies have been adopted, and new governance structures created, that may signal the beginning of a significant reform movement in Saudi society. How can we account for the nature and timing of these changes? Do they reflect a shift in dominant interpretation of Salafism, or in the dominance of Salafism vis-à-vis other Islamic sects? Or are the best understood as responses to developments in Saudi civil society and politics? Or do they signal an adaptation to an institutionalizing world culture that espouses gender equality and women’s rights? In this paper, we draw on power-resource theory, and world polity theory, to develop a framework for interpreting these changes. We draw on a range of data sources, including the annual reports of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and various issues of the World Bank’s World Development Reports, and the Freedom House’s surveys of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa, to evaluate the relative merits of the alternative frameworks for understanding these changes.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Michael Mulcahy

Additional Mentoring Department

Sociology

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May 16th, 8:00 AM

Saudi Arabian Women: Hijab Covering

Saudi Arabia has long been considered one of the most conservative states with regard to the gender equality. In the past decade, however, some observers have pointed to changes in Saudi laws and policies regarding women’s rights. In 2000, Saudi Arabia approved the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) treaty. Since ratification of the treaty, new laws and policies have been adopted, and new governance structures created, that may signal the beginning of a significant reform movement in Saudi society. How can we account for the nature and timing of these changes? Do they reflect a shift in dominant interpretation of Salafism, or in the dominance of Salafism vis-à-vis other Islamic sects? Or are the best understood as responses to developments in Saudi civil society and politics? Or do they signal an adaptation to an institutionalizing world culture that espouses gender equality and women’s rights? In this paper, we draw on power-resource theory, and world polity theory, to develop a framework for interpreting these changes. We draw on a range of data sources, including the annual reports of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and various issues of the World Bank’s World Development Reports, and the Freedom House’s surveys of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa, to evaluate the relative merits of the alternative frameworks for understanding these changes.