I just finished reading Dhofari Gucci's post on Women's Day, and women's rights in Oman. My Omani husband always says, "well, at least we don't live in Dhofar"... but then....I've seen major abuses of women's rights even in Muscat.
I saw one girl who was denied access to her own ID, and passport, by her father, and they live in Al Amerat in Muscat. She went to the police with this, because the law does support freedom of movement for Omani women. Nonetheless, the laws were not enforced, and no one gave the woman her ID. She was effectively imprisoned in her family home. I have never, ever heard from her, or seen her, again.
When I have visited the women's protection section of the courts, I saw incompetence (no follow-up by case-workers even in cases where violent abuse is a factor) and the attitude of "the family always wants what is best for a girl" prevailing. Case-workers also were racist.
Families don't always want what is best for a girl. Believe me.
My own mother once tried to stab me with a knife and the police told me "heaven is under her feet" so I should give it time, and try to make that relationship work.
If I had grown up as an Omani girl, where my family controlled my ID cards, I wonder if I would be able to move away and escape them? Would I be able to work and support myself? Would I be able to live by myself?
All the laws in Oman, support these things supposedly, but the enforcement of the laws then, is not there.
And there are some things in Oman a girl cannot do because of the lack of enforcement, because of her family.
I am sure my mother (not Muslim, not Omani) would have loved the ability to control what I studied, who I worked for, and to be able to choose who I married. I know for certain my own thoughts and best interests would never have even occurred to her. She would have used me to improve her lot in life, or to make herself look good to other people, and what I needed or wanted would not matter if it didn't do those things for her.
Even my father, bless him, for he has always wanted nothing but the best for me, would choose someone totally unsuitable for me. Someone who wouldn't beat me or abandon me, and who would be financially stable, those would be his goals, but that would sort of be my minimum for myself, and not really amount to my emotional happiness. He'd choose someone I could live well with, not necessarily love or be fully loved by. Not because he wouldn't want what is best for me, but because he simply doesn't know what is best for me. There's a reason Islam gives a girl a yea or a "no, I don't think so", to every marriage, even if the law in Oman, really does not ask for her signature on her original marriage contract, or even on notice-of-her-divorce papers.
That is something society in Oman needs to learn to accept. Not every family knows what is best for their girls. Not every family is the same. Your father might actually be great at picking out a husband for you, but that doesn't mean that mine is good at the same for me. And your mother might be the sweetest, most selfless soul that breathed, while another woman's mother would sell her daughter for a head of lettuce, or another might enjoy controlling more than loving (,ie see the Fairy-tale "Rapunzel" to get that lettuce reference).
As I apply to be Omani, I know I should apply for Canadian citizenship for my daughter. As an Omani girl, the law simply does not give her all the rights that she should have under Islam. So at the same time, my readers might wonder why it is okay for me to give up my Canadian citizenship to be Omani? Well, you see, I don't need a family or a tribe for anything, to fight for me. I can fight for myself, apply for things myself. Not every Omani woman, however, can, as long as she has a family with male Muslim relatives to hold her back. These men are supposed to protect her, but even they aim to do that, they may not always know what is best for her,
If there is no choice in something, there is no freedom to it.
This remains an important issue internationally, concerning hijab, the Muslim woman's headscarf.
There is no law in Oman that says you have to wear hijab, or in Islam that says one person can punish another for not wearing it. But try to not wear hijab in Oman (even non-Islamic hijab but hijab that your family or tribe think a girl or woman should wear, and see how free and Islamic hijab is in Oman). It is reduced from the beautiful, religiously significant symbol of freedom and belief that I wear---and fight to wear---for the sake of my belief in Islam, to a piece of cloth worn to hide, for a husband, or a father, or a tribe.
Like, for example, I remember this one time I got so mad at my husband I went outside to yell at him (he's a good guy despite everything I blog here about, really) and forgot to put on my headscarf/shayla...and he was so upset, like really mad at me. Not for being mad and yelling at him, which I'd respect if he had been mad about that, but he was mad about the state of my forgotten hijab.
[Note: I get really, really mad sometimes, leading to things I regret later, like hitting people, and like, forgetting to wear clothes. Being mad in Islam? Is bad. Guess that's why. But anyways]
I was like, "what are you mad about? I don't wear hijab for you! Did I wear it in Canada, to hide? To be what some man wanted me to be? No. So, if, like, you divorced me because I took off my scarf I would stop caring for you that instant. I wear my scarf for Allah. If I feel bad about what I did, I'll ask Allah to forgive me for it, it is not something I have to answer to you for. Of course, I feel bad about it, I should never be that stupidly angry from the first, so I ask Allah to forgive me. But I won't ask forgiveness of you, I won't care if you are mad.I am not a child. I should care for the sake of Allah, not any other human being."
So my husband, being the man that he is, then got it: Hijab is between a woman and Allah, and if she isn't wearing it for that reason, as her own choice, for her own reasons, then she isn't really wearing hijab---she's just wearing extra clothes.
Also, the neighbours everyone has trouble with in our 'hood? They were keeping everyone awake until 3 am. So, of course, I went outside and asked said neighbour to be quiet.
I barely stepped out of my yard. I was respectfully dressed. The street was filled with construction workers. We were not alone.
Still, this man tried to make my husband mad by saying to my husband: "I talked to your wife in the street at midnight."
My husband, at first, wanted me to see that my behaviour should be changed, but in the end, he realized, it is this mindset that needs to be changed.
Why can a woman not speak up for her own rights? Why must a man speak for her? Why is it shameful for a woman to speak publicly to a man of things she is allowed to speak about? Why is it shameful for her to go out of her home and be on her own street if she needs to do something, no matter the hour? Does a man have to do everything for a woman? And, if there is a man who can do something for a woman, and she still insists on doing it herself, is she shameful? Should a man be ashamed that this willful woman "belongs with him" "in his home" "under his roof?"
So it is the culture that made my husband feel "ashamed" he was not there to speak for me. As if being a useful human being who can do things for herself, was a shameful thing for his wife to be, as if it made him any less of a man....
Rather than it being "shameful" and "immature/backwards" for the neighbor to imply there was anything untowards in my sinless behavior.
Alhamdulilah, my Omani husband gets it. He forgets sometimes. Culture runs deeps. But he gets it. He sees which way is right, and which is backwards, mere tradition, tradition that shames, rather than tradition that builds.
So...until that sort of culture changes in Oman, then laws will continue to do naught but pay lip-service to the status of Omani women in Oman.