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5 Asia-Pac. J. on Hum. Rts. & L. 49 (2004)
A State of Oppression - Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia

handle is hein.journals/apjur5 and id is 53 raw text is: Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law 1: 49-67, 2004.
0 2004 Koninklijke Brill Vf' Printed in the Netherlands

Sifa Mtango*
1. Introduction
The status of women in Saudi Arabia is determined by traditional and
religious practices that are often sanctioned by law. Women in Saudi
Arabia can be seen to be in a position subservient to men as restrictions are
strictly applied which curtail their way of life. These restrictions are often
explained by reference to Islamic requirements, but the Qur'an and other
sources of Islamic lam- do not necessarily support the interpretations of the
law that Saudi authorities apply.
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with the Shari'a as the basis of the system of
government. Article 1 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Constitution of
Saudi Arabia is God's Holy Book, the Qur'an, and His Prophet's
Tradition, the hadith. The religious basis of Saudi rule is confirmed in
Article 7, which states the Qur'an and hadith 'are the sources 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.
Given the entwining of Islam and Saudi law, the question that arises is
whether the Qur'an and other Islamic sources of law support the
restrictions imposed on women in Saudi Arabia. To answer this, one needs
to look at these restrictions and evaluate them in light of the Shari'a, to
determine whether they are in fact what the law provides. In many, if not
most cases, it can be argued that the law in Saudi Arabia is in fact an
interpretation of the Qur'an that does not reflect the intentions of the holy

. School of Law, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.

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