Women Being Denied of a Simple Right.

In today’s time one would automatically assume that everyone over a certain age, generally speaking, has the right to vote (depending on what country one resides in). Despite living in a modern society, there are many countries across the globe that still deny females the right to vote. In places such as Vatican City and Saudi Arabia women are deprived of this simple liberty. Looking at this issue from a Canadian perspective, we live in an emancipated era, it is utterly poignant that women who are considered to be equal counterparts to men are not eligible to have such a basic right.

Many people across the world view Vatican City and Saudi Arabia to be “holy places,” where one would think gender equality is a key component of life. Gender equality cannot be reached if there are laws in tact that state only certain portion of the public has the right to elect a political leader while another group is far from putting in their input. The election held in Vatican City is the Papal Conclave, in which the pope is elected by the College of Cardinals, a special group of males, “who by definition are male priests” that come in assistance to the elected pope in decision making (CBC News 2005). Women are not granted access to the cardinals, therefore being denied of having the right to vote.

Saudi Arabia follows laws of Islam which is preceded in the Qur’an, this holy book implies that men are superior to women, the direct translation states “men are in charge of women” (4:34). The monarchy in Saudi Arabia acts in accordance to the Qur’an repressing the basic civil rights of women (Arab News 2012). The women of Saudi Arabia are deprived of many liberties, one of them being the right to vote. They do not have the privilege of electing an official to represent them nor are they allowed to run for office (Arab News 2012).

In response to this situation, John Finnis would argue that a healthy community needs a common code of conduct that orders and coordinates interaction to achieve a common good, how can a community be healthy if both sexes are not considered to be equal. Finnis would argue that women being denied the right to vote “clearly violates the requirement that law serve the common good of all people” (Pavlich, 2011). In relation to voting, Finnis would view this issue to be suppressing many forms of human flourishing, as it also violates his fifth value of sociability and friendship which requires a ‘unity of common action’ (1980). The deprivation of such rights only for women does not serve the “common good” of all people because no good is being done for women. Without voting rights human life will not flourish; “human life cannot flourish without a community, led by an authority who pursues the interests of a common good” in which common goods refers to the interests of all people in a society (Pavlich 2011). Pavlich says that if a law is against the common good, “it forfeits a moral right to govern its subjects” because justice is “always about securing and nurturing that common good” which in this case is the liberty of voting (2011). One could also argue that Finnis’ fourth form of human flourishment ‘aesthetic experience’ is lost for women because they don’t have the privilege of electing a leader. It is quite evident that gender should not be an obstacle in voting, as one has the right to elect an official in their legislation. The question to ask is, when will these nations start treating women equally by giving them a simple civil liberty such as voting?

References Cited

Alnowaiser, K. (2012). Saudi women urgently need equal rights. Arab News. Retrieved September 20, 2012 from http://www.arabnews.com/columns/%E2%80%8Bsaudi-women-urgently-need-equal-rights

Finnis, J. (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. New York: Clarendon Press.

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. New York: Oxford University Press. 1-39.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/pope/electing_qanda.html (Retrieved September 20, 2012)

http://quran.com/4 (Retrieved September 20, 2012)



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4 responses to “Women Being Denied of a Simple Right.

  1. Although I agree with your position that women should be considered equal in all respects of the law, I feel your inclusion of the Vatican is not entirely applicable to this specific situation.

    As far as I am aware, The Vatican only permits Cardinals (a significantly high position within the clergy) the right to vote. As this is the case, the restriction on voting in The Vatican is not one solely applied to women (as in Saudi Arabia), but rather a restriction applied to all individuals (male and female) that have not reached the rank of Cardinal.

    Additionally, I feel the right to vote on specifically religious matters (The Vatican) and the right to vote on general political manners (Saudi Arabia) are two very different issues.

  2. My first impression is that this post reflects a particular (Western) standpoint. This is fine, but it is important to acknowledge and reflect on the implications of one’s perspective. For example, the post begins with “In today’s time …”. This invites the question – what do you mean by ‘today’s time’? What are the values and ideas that inform this concept? There is no universal ‘sense of now’ that transcends divisions of geography, politics, society and class. This is important to consider, as we tend to attach certain notions of progress to our understanding of the socio-historical context in which we live (ex. “we live in an emancipated era”). Who is ‘we’, and what are the characteristics of this ‘era’? I mention this not by way of criticism, but to invite you to examine your understanding of ‘the present’. In a few weeks, we will study the work of Michel Foucault, who was keenly interested in exploring ‘the history of the present’.

    Moving on:

    You note that “Many people across the world view Vatican City and Saudi Arabia to be “holy places,” where one would think gender equality is a key component of life.”

    I wonder – has gender equality historically been a core feature of religious systems? Is it reasonable to expect the concept of ‘holy place’ to be synonymous with the concept of ‘gender equality’?

    Regarding your engagement with the Qur’an, I think that we have a special duty, when dealing with religious and philosophical texts, to provide additional contextual details to support our analyses. In this case, I would have liked to see some additional unpacking of the connections between religion and law in Saudi Arabia.

    Setting aside the basis for the laws in question, there is no doubt the the legal regime in Saudi Arabia is profoundly unequal when it comes to matters of gender equality, and your application of Finnis is effective. Your remarks on ‘common good’ and ‘sociability’ are particularly strong. I am interested in your framing of enfranchisement – in this case, the right to vote – as an aesthetic experience, in addition to a matter of equality and common good. Could you elaborate on this point? I think that this is a promising line of analysis.

    Your final sentence reads:

    “The question to ask is, when will these nations start treating women equally by giving them a simple civil liberty such as voting?”

    To which I would respond: Rights and liberties are not, traditionally, given. Certainly, women’s rights in Canada have not been granted by existing political institutions acting on their own – rather, they have been won through activism, agitation, and uphill campaigns by reformers and social movements.

    Interesting post!

  3. believeinblue1

    In response to symphonyofblindinglight:
    From my understanding, previously cardinals did not have to be ordained; some were merely deacons. What I was trying to get at is, could, say, an abbess (woman who is the head of an abbey of nuns) be made a cardinal, not referring to people of laity (not what I’m trying to get at), thought it has been noted “that they were public affairs” (Baumgartner 2003).
    The Catholic church only allows men to have leadership positions (and this includes Cardinals) women have no voting rights in the Vatican. If the church ever decided to allow women to hold leadership positions, female Cardinals could vote. It just has come to my attention that “the Vatican puts attempts at ordaining women among the ‘most serious crimes'” (Govan 2010).

    In response to Mike:
    When I say today’s time, I refer to my perspective of the western society where I see that gender equality has been attained in most if not all aspects of life, whether it be socially, econimically, or politically. I am talking about about this issue from a point of view which I think is contemporary, which includes values associated with technology and individual sense of self. For me, the word ‘we’ for refers to the general public, as I understand the public to be apart of a society. As far as emancipated era is concernced, I view this era to be one where capitalism is key.
    In my opinion, it certainly is reasonable to expect the concept of ‘holy place’ to be synonymous with the concept of ‘gender equality’ because this is what has been taught to me (in Sikhism) and I think that equality should be everywhere with race and gender.
    In relation to Saudi Arabia, I have stated that they follow the Islamic legislation found in the the Qur’an called the Sharia Law. In my opinion it is also opinion to note the below:
    “Article 1 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Constitution of Saudi Arabia is God’s Holy Book, the Qur’an…The religious basis of Saudi rule is confirmed in Article 7, which states the Qur’an…[the source] of authority of the government’, and that ‘they are the arbiters of this law and all other laws.’ Thus, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state, with the laws of Islam as its foundation; consequently any criticism or questioning of Saudi laws is often viewed as a criticism of Islam” (Mtango 2004).
    Women are being denied their rights solely on the basis of sex, there is a violation of women’s human rights. For example, there are laws in the Sharia Law which say women in Saudi Arabia are prohibited to drive, to go out in public by themselves, and “Practices such as veiling and sex-segregation are said to be required by Shari’a [and the Qur’an]” (Mtango 2004).
    I believe denying women the right to vote does not fulfill John Finnis’ premise of ‘aesthetic experience’ which leads to one’s well-being and human flourishing. Human flourishing refers to one’s happiness, and if women are not being considered to be equal of men, how can they possibly be happy? Being denied of such a liberty, has caused uproar if one takes a look back into history becuase women just like men are capable of making their own decisions, even if it is filling out a voting ballot. For your last point mike, I do agree with you there and I am aware of that, but I feel that these nations should follow by example and give women the right they deserve, the right to vote.

    Baumgartner, F. J. (2003). “I WILL OBSERVE ABSOLUTE AND PERPETUAL SECRECY:” THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE RIGID SECRECY FOUND IN PAPAL ELECTIONS. Catholic Historical Review, 89(2), 165. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
    Chulov, M. (2011). Saudi women to be given right to vote and stand for election in four years. The Guardian. Retrieved September 22, 2012 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/25/saudi-women-right-to-vote
    Govan, F. (2010). Vatican says women priests a ‘crime against faith’. The Telegraph. Retrieved September 22, 2012 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/7892666/Vatican-says-women-priests-a-crime-against-faith.html
    Mtango, S. (2004). A STATE OF OPPRESSION? WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN SAUDI ARABIA. Asia-Pacific Journal On Human Rights & The Law, 5(1), 49-67.
    http://www.ibtimes.com/saudi-women-vote-which-countries-still-dont-allow-womens-suffrage-318260 Retrieved September 22, 2012.
    http://www.thepastoralreview.org/cgi-bin/archive_db.cgi?priestsppl-00005 Retrieved September 22, 2012.

    • Thanks for the detailed response to my comments. Your line of argumentation is well-reasoned, and I am glad that you have elaborated on your initial remarks.

      You write that “In my opinion, it certainly is reasonable to expect the concept of ‘holy place’ to be synonymous with the concept of ‘gender equality’ because this is what has been taught to me (in Sikhism) and I think that equality should be everywhere with race and gender.”

      This is a good opportunity to differentiate between the descriptive and normative, or the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’. Your position is a normative one (related to what ought to be the case), grounded in the teachings of Sikhism. It is a principled position, and worth supporting. However, it is important to distinguish between the notion that “the concept of a holy place should be synonymous with the concept of gender equality” and the notion that “generally, the concept of a holy place is synonymous with the concept of gender equality”. The latter statement does not seem to reflect the historical evidence.

      Keep up the great work!