Good Samaritan 101: Mr. Aguilar, Spanish Minister of Justice

Posted on February 17, 2007

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Congratulations to  the Spanish Minister of Justice, Mr. Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, for taking a stand against gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia. During an official visit to Saudi Arabia last month, Mr. Aguilar was invited to speak at Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Islamic University. When the Minister learned that female journalists traveling with him would not be allowed to enter the university, he refused to speak at the event, giving the text of his comments to University officials instead.   This courageous stance should serve as an example to representatives of other nations to follow the Spanish government’s courageous stand against such discriminatory policies.

Continued exposure from the international community of these discriminatory policies and practices toward women will help create a public debate that is essential to the empowerment of Saudi women and their right to full citizenship. Currently, women cannot legally vote, drive, study certain scientific subjects in school, or work in many fields, including law. Consequently, less than ten percent of Saudi women are a part of the national workforce despite being the majority of college graduates. This severe gender segregation prevents the exchange of ideas between men and women, hinders the development of social harmony and denies Saudi society the intellectual and economic contributions of half its citizens.

Greater participation of women in Saudi Arabia is to be encouraged in order to double the productive elements of Saudi society, expand the intellectual horizons of all its residents, and tilt the balance in favor of tolerant policies that accept all citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion.   The international community should follow the Spanish Minister of Justice’s example in his promotion of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

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