Traditionally, women in Saudi Arabia are expected to be married by their early twenties.
Women are also challenging the rules on how to meet a prospective husband.
The trend has ruffled ultraconservatives who see it as an affront to the very foundations of the kingdom, where strict interpretations of Islam and rigid tribal codes have long dictated the terms of marriage.“My friends and I have reached a point (where) we’re very specific about what we want,” she said.
“I need someone who trusts that if I need to do something, I can make the decision to ask for help or choose to do it alone.”Saudi women stand at the center of a societal pivot between the kingdom’s push for greater women’s education and rights to work, and laws that give men final say over their lives.
During a 2005 sermon, the imam of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Abdul-Rahman As-Sudais, raised an early outcry against “the dangerous phenomenon of life-long spinsterhood,” saying it endangers “the community as a whole.”Traditionally, women in Saudi Arabia are expected to be married by their early 20s.
In 2011, more than 1.5 million Saudi women aged over 30 were single, according to the Economy and Planning Ministry.
Women cannot travel, study abroad, marry or undergo certain medical procedures without the permission of a male guardian — usually a father or husband, or in their absence, an older or even a younger brother.
The growing number of single women has alarmed clerics, who have responded by pushing for early marriage and warning of alleged evil consequences of “spinsterhood,” such as sex outside wedlock.
The 27-year-old, studying for her master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington and hoping to someday become Saudi Arabia’s first female labor minister, is part of a growing number of Saudi women choosing to remain single through their 20s and into their 30s as they pursue other ambitions.
Women have been taking on a greater role in public life, though their jobs are mostly in the education sector.
In this Sunday, May 11, 2014 photo, a Saudi woman seen through a heart-shaped statue walks along an inlet of the Red Sea in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
A growing number of Saudi women are remaining single through their 20s and into their 30s as they pursue their ambitions, sending ultraconservatives into a panic.
According to government figures, 3.3 million are women over 30 in this nation of 20 million people — and if the ministry’s 2011 figure is unchanged, it means that about 45 percent of Saudi women over 30 are single.
While women’s rights activists agree there’s a rise in the numbers of single women, some question the accuracy of the government’s figure, saying it supports the norm that Saudi men are allowed more than one wife.