March 31 2014
President Ignores the Plight of Women in Talks with the Saudis
Carrie L. Lukas
There is a war on women—it's just doesn't take place in the United States, in spite of all the political hype.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are truly second class citizens, with their opportunity strictly circumscribed by the men in their lives. As Amnesty International explains, women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to drive, and “need the permission of a male guardian to get married, travel, undergo certain types of surgery, accept paid employment or enroll in higher education.”
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers, along with groups like Amnesty International, urged the President to bring up these human right issues when meeting with the King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Yet the President declined to do so. His national security adviser reiterated the President's concern about human rights issues, but explained that when it comes to Saudi Arabia “we have a very broad set of shared security interests, economic interests that we’ll be pursuing as well ... We have to have the ability to cooperate with them on a very broad political and security agenda as well." In other words, Saudi Arabia is too important for the President to challenge on such touchy matters as women's rights.
Of course, it's understandable that the President needs to prioritize and sometimes we need to be allies with leaders who fall short on key measures like human rights. Yet there is something disappointing and hypocritical about this lack of attention to the concerns of women around the world, coupled with the over-wrought rhetoric that's used to slander the President's opponents at home. Somehow you are a part of a “War on Women” if you believe the government shouldn't force people with religious owners who happen to also run a business and employee people to violate their beliefs, but no need to have an awkward conversation with dictators who actually oppress women.