Last Updated: Sat Sep 01, 2012 10:44 am (KSA) 07:44 am (GMT)

Why can’t Saudi women have separate beaches?

Lina Almaeena

Women represent half of the society. They are the mothers, wet nurses and educators of the other half. That is why we say in philosophy that women count for more than half of the society. However this point of view is subject to discussion and examination.

This introduction encourages me to call for the consideration of a woman’s psychological health as a mother, a wife and a daughter whether she was a housewife, an employee or a student. It is necessary to protect women’s precious souls in light of their prominent role in society.

Khaled al-Arkoubi, the official spokesperson of the border guards in the Eastern Province, recently said that 70 percent of women drowning incidents happen at night and target girls between 18 and 28 years of age. As reported by al-Yawm newspaper, Al-Arkoubi said that the rate of women drowning incidents tends to increase during holidays and summer vacations when most of families prefer to camp and spend the night at the beach.

In his statement al Arkoubi said: “when swimming, some women hit rocks due to the blurry vision at night. Some are attacked by sea animals or suffer nausea and fainting. Moreover, most of women swim in their abayas (black cloak traditionally worn by women in the Gulf) and veils which are not appropriate for swimming and impede the body movement in water. The cloak might get wrapped around her body which might suffocate her and prevent her from screaming and calling for help. Thus, women may drown or even die. And since these incidents happen at night, it is difficult to spot them.”

These women prefer to swim at night to avoid the looks of men and were thus exposed to drowning during holidays. Consequently, we should find solutions to protect them and give them a chance to benefit from the beauty of nature that God has bestowed on us.

Since we have separated men from women in education facilities, banks and restaurants, why don’t we do the same with beaches? Why don’t we give women the chance to swim by appointing female lifeguards and supervisors? Why don’t we organize swimming lessons so that women can teach their children how to swim while their husbands are at work?

If we undertake these measures, we would create a new sector for employment and put at the hands of women the swimming technique that could help them survive in certain conditions (like the Jeddah floods for example). At the same time we would sprinkle happiness on the souls of our girls and women so that happiness does not become the privilege of those who can afford buying or renting a beach cabin or chalet.

Just like any other women, I wish I could swim in women-only beaches. Women-only beaches are likely to boost local tourism and reduce the reliance on foreign touristic destinations that are pulling millions of riyals per year outside of the Kingdom. All of this can be done if we invest in women-oriented sectors.

(Lina Almaeena is the founder of Jeddah United basketball team. This article was first published in al-Madina newspaper on Aug. 31, 2012)

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