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JACK SIMPSON: Women still have a long way to go for equal rights in some countries

When you look at the status of women in other parts of the world, maybe there is some truth to that ad that tells American females “You have come a long way, baby.” We are proud of the progress made in women’s rights in America and hope for more, particularly in equal pay for equal work.

In Nigeria the Boko Haram terrorist group recently kidnapped young school girls intending to sell them as slaves. Human rights be damned in this nation. Nigerian forces have been slow to respond to what the rest of the world regards with moral outrage.

In Saudi Arabia an unnamed lady with a sense of humor was being divorced by her husband for doing something American women do every day. Yes, driving the family car. As you know, there is a ban in that nation against women drivers. The lady filmed herself driving and then posted it on the Internet. Her husband went into a rage demanding a divorce because social conventions were broken and he was embarrassed.

Fashion is important to American women as is choice of clothing. Saudi women, so I am told, are expected to dress in accordance with religious custom. They cover their bodies from head to toe, show little skin and their over garment is black. Sleeves are long, hair is covered as well as face and hands. Thank goodness none of this is required of American women, most of whom dress conservatively. However, if they wish to show some skin, then that is their choice. It is a free country. Certainly the way American women dress for the summer heat is more comfortable than what is worn in Saudi Arabia. But, customs are taken more seriously in the area of Mecca. As a tourist abroad, be careful if you are a non-Muslim wandering about and happen to enter a prohibited area. You could lose your life in some of these Arab countries. The Saudis require permission to enter forbidden areas. In religious matters, Arabs do not like to suffer loss of face. I suppose this accounts in large measure for the lady with the sense of humor who drove the family car and found out the hard way what it meant to break tradition and custom.

Saudi Arabia is 100 percent Muslim and ruled by a monarchy. Arabic is the official language and English is used in business. Muslims pray five times a day. Families are close and women’s rights are defined by Islam and by tribal customs. In fact, it is probably the only country where women cannot drive and females still “have a long way to go, baby.”

In an Arab nation a few years ago, a woman was murdered by her father for chatting with a man on Facebook. This was considered forbidden gender mingling. American women probably do not comprehend such strict minimizing of their social interaction. Aren’t we glad? Facebook is widely used daily by male and female Americans of all ages.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.