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Woman gets divorced on her wedding night. That kind of story makes almost daily news in our papers. The new angle in a recent case was that the woman got divorced because her father and husband fought over who was going to benefit from the bride?s salary, each wanting it for himself. The woman herself was out of the picture: The whole scenario was written by her two male guardians, who believed they had every right to use her and her money to their benefit.
In another incident, a woman was divorced because her husband did not like the bride?s brother taking pictures of the couple, so he started a fight and ended it by divorcing his wife.
But the most annoying of these stories was the outcome of a traffic accident. A driver stopped and helped the injured and took them to a hospital. As a reward for this man?s kind help, the family of the accident victims gave a dinner party in his honor. After dinner the family patriarch insisted on giving a present to this man as a token of his gratitude, and that present was the daughter of the family. The family offered him a young girl in marriage, and in accepting the gift he told them he was doing it on behalf of his son. The girl was to be married off to the man?s son.
I was totally shocked, but a relative told me that this is normal in Bedouin tradition, where men choose husbands for their daughters who they think are good men. As much as I understand the simple culture that inspired it, I feel that what we used to take for granted in our society 100 years ago might not be perfect or even healthy in this day and age.
There are many similar stories of how some people here treat women as objects, to be disposed of under the terms of one contract or another. Most of the time the women?s opinions are not sought, and the rights our religion grants them are all too often trampled under foot.
A man on his honeymoon was dared by his friends to marry another woman before the honeymoon with the first wife was over. Being a man of honor he accepted the bet and his uncle, who was sitting around, offered him his daughter in marriage, so the man acquired two wives in one month! I don?t know if such behavior is indicative of a sound mind, but it certainly reveals a disrespect of the most serious kind to the bond of marriage and to human values and to the image of women.
On a different note, a young woman in Jeddah who is educated and has a good job recently got divorced from her husband. The husband is treating her badly. He took his time giving her a divorce, he takes the kids whenever he wants, and he sometimes decides to punish her by keeping them from calling or visiting her and ignores every obligation toward her or their children. All she can do is file a court case, which she does not want to do because it might have negative consequences for her children later on. This woman is getting minimal support from her family or society. Because her ex-husband is a man who can get away with lots of things in a society that thinks that men?s actions are always justifiable.
Though these examples do not necessarily mean that the rest of society is treating women the same way, the fact that we allow these cases to happen casts us in a rather unfavorable light.
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