Sweet S.A.!

11Jul16

Why does Britain impose sanctions on some countries but not others?

While the South African government practiced the system of apartheid, the United Kingdom (and 24 other nations including the United States) passed laws placing various trade sanctions on that country.

The time that apartheid was allowed to exist in South Africa has been described as one of the most shameful periods in world history. Throughout the twentieth century, apartheid was used to eliminate all civil and human rights of the non-white inhabitants of South Africa.

There is another country right now that mandates the same civil rights inequality and abuses. The oppressed group in this case are women and the country is Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia women are forbidden from driving and cannot open a bank account without their husband’s permission. Women need to be accompanied by a male guardian known as a ‘mahram’ whenever they leave the house. The guardian is often a male relative and will accompany women on all of their errands, including shopping trips and visits to the doctor.

Such practices are rooted in “conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.” In one extreme case, a teenager reported that she had been gang-raped, but because she was not with a mahram when it occurred, she was punished by the court. The victim was given more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received.

The majority of public buildings including offices, banks and universities have separate entrances for men and women. Public transport, parks, beaches and amusement parks are also segregated in most parts of the country. Unlawful mixing leads to criminal charges being brought against both parties, but women typically face the harsher punishment.

Britain has no sanctions against Saudi Arabia at all, in fact the situation is quite the opposite. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have long been close allies. There are more than 200 joint ventures between British and Saudi Companies, worth $17.5 billion, and 30,000 British nationals are living and working in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the United Kingdom’s primary trading partner in the Middle East.

In January 2015, Prince Charles travelled to the Saudi capital Riyadh, as did a number of world leaders including Prime Minister David Cameron, to pay his respects following the death of the nation’s King Abdullah. Flags were flown at half-mast on key public buildings in London.

Why do we tolerate the gender apartheid that is practiced in Saudi Arabia, especially as our head of state is the Queen and Britain is about to get it’s second female Prime Minister?

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