Friday, 18 April 2014

Saudi Women and shisha smoking rights

A woman smoking a shisha in Ramallah
It started with a photo posted on Twitter reportedly of a sign outside a shisha cafe in Saudi Arabia. Women were permitted to enter, it said, but only with a male escort.

Since the weekend, a discussion has been gathering pace in the country. The hashtag "Shisha Is Banned for Girls Without a Male Guardian" (#منع_تقديم_الشيشة_للفتيات_بدون_محرم) started to trend, with almost 80,000 tweets at the time of writing.
Many women were not amused, and responded with sarcasm. "All that's left is for you to tell us not to go to the bathroom without guardian,"tweeted one woman.
 "What if I take a puff of shisha while my guardian is in the toilet? Should I blow it back out or keep it in until he comes back,"said another.
 Some men also joked about the move. "It will be 50 [Saudi riyals] per hour to hire me," was one tweet.
But some on social media clearly supported the move.
 "It is a good decision, and the goal is to reduce the danger of smoking shisha among girls.
 There are girls who go to cafes to smoke shisha behind their parents' back," for example.
A woman smoking a shisha in Ramallah
The guardian system, known as mahram, is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia.
 It requires a woman to gain permission from a male guardian for all sorts of things - including travel, work, medical procedures and marriage.
 In adamning report, Human Rights Watch referred to it as: "the most significant impediment to the realization of women's rights in the kingdom".
Shisha, also referred to as a hookah, is popular with both men and women in Arab countries - and appears to be gaining in popularity in the UK too.
 It's an ornate waterpipe with a long tube used to smoke fruit-scented tabacco, and is often smoked socially.

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