Category Archives: Gender

Oh this won’t last!

Had to laugh at this article explaining that Dubai Bank is going to make the Abaya mandatory for ALL female staff from now onwards.

If you read it carefully you will notice the memo was released by an HR Manager and so far none of the bank officials have been able to confirm it.

My bet: As soon as the officials in Dubai hear of this the bank will be asked to issue a statement correcting this misconception. It will go down as one of those ‘Dubai rumours’.

I mean, even Sheikh Mohammed’s wife doesn’t wear the Abaya for official functions!

The whole thing is ridiculous.

Dubai Bank says all female staff must wear abayas

By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter
Published: August 21, 2009, 22:50

Dubai: All female staff at Dubai Bank, Muslim and non-Muslim, must wear a shailah (head scarf) and abaya (black cloak covering the whole body) starting this Ramadan, Gulf News has learnt.

A memo sent to staff on Thursday says the bank has decided that all Muslim and non-Muslim female staff must wear a shailah and abaya.

A Dubai Bank official who would not reveal his name said a memo was issued to this effect by the human resources manager, informing employees that starting from the first day of Ramadan all female employees must wear a shailah and abaya regardless of their religion.

“Our bank is Islamic and must follow Sharia in all respects, which will satisfy our clients,” he said. While the decision takes effect beginning first of Ramadan, it has become a rule and part of the dress code for female employees at all times.

Gulf News contacted Dubai Bank on several occasions, but officials would not comment on the memo. (Editor: Yeah, I bet they wouldn’t.  It seems to have been unofficially released and someone will be asked politely to get their house in order and issue a statement saying it was ‘a false rumour’).

Gulf News has learnt that the proposal on the dress code was made by the bank’s Fatwa and Sharia Supervisory Board in June and it was endorsed by the management. A circular was then issued on Thursday.

The Fatwa and Sharia Supervisory Board’s proposal, a copy of which has been obtained by Gulf News, says the abaya should not have any embroidery or decoration on it and must not be coloured.

It says any female staff who does not adhere to this dress code should be advised by the human resources department at the bank to follow it.

If the staff member insists on not abiding by the law then the matter should be brought to the notice of the executive member of the Sharia supervisory board who can decide upon action to be taken against that staff.

The bank will encourage employees to wear a shailah and abaya by providing staff with them. The head of the human resources department has been instructed to ensure that employees adhere to the dress code.

The bank has given employees a grace period until after the Eid holiday after which it will become mandatory.

The proposal, signed by Shaikh Mohammad Taqi Usmani, Chairman of the Fatwa and Sharia Supervisory Board of Dubai Bank, says the move will gain customers’ confidence and help market the bank’s products.

Many customers, the proposal said, choose a bank based upon its appearance before considering other aspects. The dress code is essential in determining the bank’s identity as a Sharia compliant institution.

Advertisements

The Burqa is not the Problem

Image Source: http://www.aswaaq.ae/

Image Source: http://www.aswaaq.ae/

France’s decision recently to ban the burqa really disappoints me.

Do you know how many accused rapists answer in their defence to the police, ‘But  she had this really short skirt on!’

Do we ban the mini-skirt because some see men think it reflects a loose character in the woman? No we don’t. We don’t because we know that the mini-skirt is not the problem.

Banning mini-skirts is not going to reduce the occurrences of sexual assault. So So why do we think that banning the burqa is going to help women fight oppression?

Economic migrants and refugees come from all across the globe. They bring challenges to their new societies in terms of how to integrate them into the community, while protecting the needs of existing citizens.

We need to accept that the problems refugees bring with them; street violence, protest attacks and oppression of women are characteristics of poor societies .

We need to address the impact of poverty on societies with education, healthcare and access to  social justice. These are things that will truly improve the status of women in our society.

Let’s address the impact of poverty on society, and let different cultures wear their traditions with pride.

Take a look at this article from CNN today regarding women wearing the Hijab if you are interested in this topic.

Sexual Harrassment – East versus West

I was recently approached and leered at in a rather unpleasant manner by a creepy guy in a construction worker’s outfit (blue jumpsuit).

This happened while I was walking from my apartment building to the local supermarket in The Greens, which is a very Western-style community where people regularly walk around wearing a LOT less than I was at the time.

It is also private property  which is owned and controlled by Emaar, whose head office is within the community.  The surrounding gardens and pathways are patrolled heavily by security, as well as the always polite gardeners and cleaners that are employed here.

It made me uncomfortable enough to go home and change out of outfit I was wearing (navy knee-length dress and red shoes) and lodge a complaint with the Greens’ Security Office.  The security team was excellent; very kind and reassuring; and immediately went in search of the perp, which they found quickly.

The next day I was flipping through a magazine (Desert Fish) and found the very interesting Dubai Code of Conduct.

Desert Fish Magazine (for more about this great mag go to http://www.desertfishmag.com/template/about.html)

Desert Fish Magazine (for more about this great mag go to http://www.desertfishmag.com/template/about.html)

I was encouraged by the Security team to bring in the police, which I didn’t want to do.  Now I realise that my very Western belief in giving someone a warning, and not charging them,  is what saved this guy from almost certain deportation (see 1.4 Public Displays of Affection).

It was a very interesting cultural experience to see how these things are treated in the East, where the good of the community is seen as paramount to the rights of the individual.  But as a Westerner I just couldn’t get past my ethical imprinting that having a guy lose his job (and possibly his family’s livelihood?) was too high a price for any individual to pay for this.

I always thought of myself as a committed feminist.

But today, as I went outside feeling a little fearful of strangers, I have to ask myself, do I hold a set of ethics that enables sexual harrassment of women, in an effort to protect the rights of the men that do this?

This is a question that I never anticipated having to ask myself.

Dubai Code of Conduct

1. Social Ethics:

Dubai is characterised by the interaction of a large number of cultures and nationalities. However, the culture, customs and traditions of the United Arab Emirates and its people shall be respected by adopting courtesy and moderation and avoiding all types of improper behaviour in the Emirate.

1.1. The symbols of the state:

It is the duty of every citizen, resident and visitor to show respect for the symbols of the United Arab Emirates’ rulers, flag and national emblem. The abuse of any of those symbols is a crime punishable by law.

1,2. Decency:

An official business or business casual dress code shall be adopted by all visitors of Dubai’s official government buildings as well as business buildings and office towers. Access to Dubai’s official and business buildings may be denied if dress code is considered inappropriate.
In all other public places such as streets, shopping malls and restaurants, shorts and skirts shall be of appropriate length. Moreover, clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.

1.3. Beaches:

Beachgoers — men and women — shall wear conservative swimwear that is acceptable to Dubai’s culture. Swimwear shall not be worn outside the beach, as decent dress is the rule in the rest of the city. Nudity is strictly forbidden in every part of the city and is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.

1.4. Public displays of affection:

Displays of affection among couples — whether married or not — in public places does not fit the local customs and culture. Holding hands for a married couple is tolerated but kissing and petting are considered an offence to public decency.
Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.

1.5. Dancing and music:

Loud music and dancing are forbidden in public places like parks, beaches or residential areas and must be restricted to licensed venues only.

1.6. Public facilities:

Public facilities (i.e. public parks, benches, bus stops, etc.) shall be kept in good conditions. Concerned authorities must be informed of any damages.

2. Substance abuse:

The consumption of alcohol as well as any other drug or psychotropic substance is strictly prohibited in Islam and is punishable by law. Due to the large diversity of cultures and nationalities present in Dubai, alcohol consumption is closely regulated.

2.1. Drugs:

Holding, consuming, buying or selling any kind of drug — in any quantity — as well as being tested positive to any drug by the authorities in the UAE is considered a crime.

2.2. Alcohol consumption:

Alcohol consumption shall be confined to designated areas (i.e. licensed restaurants and venues that serve alcohol to their clients). Being caught under the effect of alcohol outside these places (even in light doses) can lead to a fine or incarceration.

2.3. Driving and alcohol:

The UAE has adopted a zero-tolerance policy in terms of driving under the effect of alcohol. Being caught driving with even the smallest dose of alcohol can lead to a fine, incarceration or deportation.

2.4. Purchasing alcohol:

Buying and selling alcohol is controlled by very strict laws. Alcohol is exclusively sold by specialised licensed stores. It can only be bought by holders of an alcohol-purchasing license (this license is only attainable by non-Muslims). Buyers shall respect the local culture by carrying their alcohol in paper bags such that it cannot be seen.

2.5. Smoking:

Smoking is not allowed in government facilities, offices, malls and shops. Smoking outside designated areas is subject to fine.

2.6. Prescriptions for some medicines:

Some medicines containing psychotropic substances are forbidden in the UAE. Their holders must carry a prescription from a UAE-licensed medical doctor. Visitors shall verify that their medicines are allowed in the UAE before entering the country.

Women Only Buses

I have actually taken a bus in Dubai! Despite the incredibly cheap price of taxis I decided one day to jump on the local bus to the Mall of the Emirates.

As I flung myself down into the first available seat I noticed the man sitting behind me jump up and move away. I did not realise that I had erred by sitting outside the women’s only section, which was full (of women!) I didn’t notice the front was populated by women when I chose my seat.

Afterwards my husband said to me, “You took the bus!  Did you sit in the women’s section?’

‘Ahhhh,’  said I, as the pennies fell into place. ‘That’s why that guy jumped up and ran down the back. I thought he’d just changed his mind about where he wanted to sit.’

I know. I can be a little dim sometimes.

Today an announcement was made that women only buses will start running on various routes within Dubai. The following article was published in the Gulf News.

If you take a look at the feedback on this initiative it seems to be overwhelmingly positive. Particularly in the light that some women are waiting a long time for buses because all 12 seats allocated to women are full.

Regular Buses have the first 4 seats allocated for women only.  These new buses will effectively increase the seats available to women travellers.

Regular Buses have only the first 4 seats reserved for women. The new buses will effectively increase the seats available to women travellers.

Women-only public bus service to be launched in Dubai on April 10

By Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter
Published: April 06, 2009, 12:34

Dubai: After pink taxis and air conditioned bus shelters, Dubai will also become the first city in the region to introduce buses for female passengers.

“The ladies-only bus service will start on April 10 to accommodate the increasing number of female passengers,” said Mohammad Abu Bakr Al Hashimi, director of Planning and Business Development at the Public Transport Agency of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

He said seven buses would operate on one route from Muhaisnah (near Lulu Village) to Satwa via Muraqqabat Road, Deira City Centre, Karama and World Trade Centre Interchange.

The bus service will be available from 6.30 to 9am and from 4 to 8pm. Operational times will be increased subsequently.

“We will introduce more buses and more routes after studying the response on this one route,” Al Hashimi told Gulf News.

He said that the current interval between buses was 30 minutes but added that the RTA would increase bus services by reducing the intervals to between 15 to 20 minutes as demand rose. He said that the buses would be normal RTA buses showing a sign displaying ‘women only’. The ladies-only route has been named ‘L55’.

He added that they would start with male drivers but introduce female drivers if the service proved a hit.

Do you think this is a good initiative? Would this encourage women to use the bus?

Comments

I’ve been waiting for this kind of service. This is truly convenient for us because we dont have to compete with the men and there are ample seats for ladies. Cha Karama,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:44

Yes, thats right, this serviecs will encourage ladies to use the buses, and this is a very good initiative, and will get positive respose too, i appreciate RTA services. M. Alibapu Abu Dhabi,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:40

Great idea! I am taking public transportation every day and it’s really difficult for us beacause there are only 12 seats allocated for women. Definitely this idea will succeed and please include Gold Souq-Dubai Marina bound as we are facing problem there every day. Vilma Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:38

This is a good initiative. In addition to the safety, it adds less pollution. More buses and routes need to be added. Jisha Majeed Bangalore,India Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:37

Oh yes, its a very good move…please start ladies buses on Bur Dubai-Karama route too as there are lots of females travellers. Gazala Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:28

This bus service will be a great help to women passengers since there are only 12 seats for us in the ordinary buses. hence it will be great relief for women. excellent idea! Aurbee Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:28

The new service always welcome I have a suggession that this service will be through express route. Because one lady travelling from Satwa to Quasis take too much time reach destination. Suresh Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:27

Kudos to RTA! Just wondering, who will drive these new buses? Erwin Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:27

Its really a great news for all ladies!!! something esply for us. it’ll be a hit. Rasheeda Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:21

At long last the RTA makes a good decision for the female commuters, hope they will add more. Lucy Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:21

Hi, I think this is a good move by RTA. Hanz Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 10:06

The decision is good but i don’t think a double ducker bus is required for this purpose. Small mini bus or ordinary bus is sufficient. Satheesh Vasudevan Ajman,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:44

Indeed, this is a good initiative, as there are limited seats for the ladies and ladies are not allowed to stand which cause them delayed to work or any other appointments and this will avoid any incidents that might happen if ladies will be mixed with gents. Kristina Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:39

With pleasure all lady passengers will welcome this step. It will save their time what they are spending in bus stops. Even men passengers will also be beneficiaries, because most of the time they won’t be allowed to enter into bus as bus drivers give preference to ladies. Roshini Samson Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:35

This is great news! finally women can be absolutely sure that they get seats and space in a bus. and dont have to share with men who some are unruly and not gentlemen! Good work RTA! lets have more of these buses in the future! Nikita Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:35

An excellent initiative. Perhaps the number of buses used and routes should be increased at peak times. It is known that buses during the rush peak periods are crowded and bus drivers do not stop many times for the women passengers as the allocated seating for women is very limited. C. S. Sagoo DUBAI,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:30

This is a great move by the RTA, especially when women were denied boarding the buses due to lack of seats. Hopefully, this will help the women travellers. Siddharthi Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:26

I am really happy that the LADIES bus service is going to start it will be so nice for all the women who have suffered trying to get into the crowded buses. Keep it up Dubai. Cheryl Gonsalves Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:17

Since I am a bus commuter, that is an excellent idea. It will help to lessen the time for waiting, maybe from 2hrs of waiting will lesser to 1 hr..hope so….goodluck.. Juvy Hugo Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:17

It’s a good intiative by RTA, like female taxi drivers, they must have female bus drivers as well. Bilal Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:12

Yes, thank you very much. As it I am happy with the pink taxi Malini Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:10

Absolutely yes.I am a regular passenger of bus.Because of less seat availability for ladies we are forced to wait in the bus stop very late.My duty is finishing at 7pm but i am still in the bus stop even pass 8.30pm. Its very good step. I am sure there will be more more ladies passengers and RTA will increase the services. Thanks to Dubai RTA. Remya Vivek Karama,Dubai Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:09

Definitely, introducing the ladies-only bus service is a great initiative. It would undoubtedly encourage women to use the bus especially now as taxi fares have gone up. The frequency, routes and number of buses have to be increased soon as demand will surely rise. Naina Nair Sharjah,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:09

Thank you so much for saving our lifes. You don’t know how good you have done. Please we require one also from Sharjah -Dubai -Sharjah. From A Reader Sharjah,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:03

I would say, WAY TO GO RTA! Women will not be pushed around by the male crowd. Joey Dubai,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:02

This is discrimination. This is the most unfair, non-logical, irrational thing to do. I don’t understand why and how are going the men standin the street feeling about such discrimination. Thanks, Adham Azam Abu Dhabi,UAE Posted: April 07, 2009, 09:01

This idea is highly appreciated and more comfortable. For an employee like me later night travelling can be made so ease with this facility. But it should be on more routes and the timings can also be incereased soon. Dinu Rajesh Dubai,UAE

International Women’s Day

I am almost rendered speechless!!!

Check out the article on International Women’s Day that appeared in the Gulf News. I just don’t know where to start with this.

1. How did the concept of the  ideal woman come into a discussion of an event that is supposed to empower women?

2. How did the editor allow the journalist’s relationship issues with women derail the topic so embarrasingly (“Most of the time, it would appear that women think they are perfect and as such, men might beg to differ.”) Oops!

3. The fairer sex ??? You know they are not even being facetious using this term right?

Fairer sex speak out on qualities the ideal woman should possess

By Hind Al Yousef, Community Journalist
Published: March 06, 2009, 23:12

Dubai: The world celebrates March 8 as International Women’s Day. What comprises an ideal woman? That is a question which could be answered in so many ways. Is she smart, compassionate, beautiful or powerful? Some might expect her to clean the dishes and buy the groceries, while others want her to be strong enough to run a business. Gulf News readers discuss the various possibilities.

Most of the time, it would appear that women think they are perfect and as such, men might beg to differ. Gulf News spoke to its female readers to find out what they think makes an ideal woman.

Shamma Al Dabal, a 19-year-old Emirati said: “I personally think that each woman has her own unique essence that pervades all around and makes her ideal in her own way. There are no specific standards. As long as she works hard at whatever she is doing, then that is what I call ideal.”

Apparently, this is an idea that women agree on, regardless of differences in culture and nationality.

Laila Kefayeh, a 19-year-old Palestinian-American said: “The ideal woman isn’t defined by her occupation, but by her mentality, intelligence, and etiquette.”

The ladies were asked whether there were certain characteristics which made one a better woman?

In Kefayeh’s opinion, there exist certain musts for every woman in this modern day age.

She said: “A woman should be decent, have self confidence and self-respect. She should also be well informed in a wide variety of general topics and should be eloquent in her speech.”

Strength of character – in today’s fast-paced world – featured as another crucial point in the search to get women to define their perfect woman.

Sheryl Salvador, a 35-year-old Filipina reminds us of that.

She said: “An ideal woman is someone who stands firm in her belief regardless of the circumstances she is in. One who can not be easily persuaded by the influence of the world around her.”

Motherhood also weighed in heavily.

Sujata Sardana, a 45-year-old Indian expatriate and a mother of two said: ” It takes a lot of effort for a woman to be a well-educated good mother, teach her children the right morals and pass on the values that matter.”

History behind Women’s Day

Legend has it that the idea of an International Women’s Day arose on March 8, 1857, in New York when women working in several different clothing factories decided to protest against their employers, demanding shorter working hours, a better salary and voting rights. They were soon dispersed by the authorities. However, similar protests occurred on the same date, in the following years.

Today, March 8 is marked globally as the International Women’s Day to encourage the active participation and equality of women in society. Several events are held around the world to inspire women and their respective achievements.

Do you have any female role models in your life?

How did they make a difference to you?

Are there certain things that women can do better than men?

Who would’ve thunk it!

I saw a little thing the other day that made me giggle. An Emirati couple – him dressed in white hijab (‘modest clothing’) and her dressed in black hijab are wandering through an upmarket furniture store in the Emirates Mall.

The husband walks up to a rather gaudy dart board and says to his wife – who is a wandering a few steps behind – something in a tone of great approval and gives the dart board two taps with this forefinger like a teenage who has to poke everything. She approaches and in a tone I can only say was completely non-plussed, says something which I think was either

a) “I don’t THINK so”,

b) “Over my dead body” or maybe even,

c) “You have absolutely no taste WHATsoever!”

And she kept on walking past him and the dart board without missing a step.

Making the Decision to Move

When you are thinking about moving to a new country you do a lot of reading. I cannot even IMAGINE how people contemplated moving to another place before the internet. Seriously… how would you have any idea of what was what if you couldn’t read the expat discussion groups? They were brave back in the day. Or maybe ignorance was bliss.

While you investigate this new place – long before you have made your final decision that you are prepared to give it a go – you have ‘moments’. Good ‘moments’. And not so good ‘moments. I’ll give you some examples of moments we experienced while researching life in Dubai (both having never even visited).

Slightly-not-so-good-moment: finding out that the same job has different rates of pay for employees depending on their nationality. For example, Phillipino maids are paid more that Sri Lankans maids even though they work the same hours and under the same conditions.

The reason this is not a strongly-not-so-good-moment is because;

a) as a Western-educated anglo-saxons we’re probably going to experience positive discrimination when it comes to salary in this regard, and

b) despite the fact that we don’t feel comfortable with that approach ourselves, we do try to operate under the assumption that the rest of the world does NOT need to hold the same values. (Stay tuned for the inevitable culture-shocked rant a few months down the track to see how long we can maintain this attitude.)

How-bad-is-it-really-gonna-be?-not-so-good-moment: Finding out that it is not uncommon for positions of employment to be advertised with a gender specification. Generally this applies to roles that are very traditionally male or female. For example, roles for Drivers (chauffers) are specified as male. Roles for maids are specified as female (and very often females without husbands. There is actually a pragmatic reason behind the no husbands rule which I can explain if anyone wants me to.) So too are nurses and receptionists specified as being female.

I haven’t seen an instance within the Information Technology sector (at least at the professional level) where gender has been specified. So I live in hope. However, this could just be because it is assumed that the candidates will generally be male. Although I do know of women holding these roles in Dubai.

Its not the prospect of not getting a job that really concerns me. What concerns me is the impact that my gender will have on me if I chose to continue as a consultant for a big-4. Is it an issue sending out a female consultant to clients? I don’t know.

If this IS an acceptable practise, how to I navigate my role as a woman amongst people that are not used to women being in authority? (Again… this might not even be the case and I admit I am working on a lot of untested assumptions here.)

Well, at least I have the benefit of having worked in a culture with different views than my home country when it comes to behavior towards women in the workplace. Australia is far more PC than Western Europe in these matters, and I see a lot of Australians quite shocked by behavior that is seen as normal by Western Europeans. It took some getting used to.

The kicker is… if I found the Netherlands confronting at times on this issue, how on earth am I going to deal with the Middle East? It will be interesting. I am hoping that the gulf between men and women is somewhat exaggerated by the Western media. A fact highlighted to me when a compatriot and friend of mine asked me how I was going to cope wearing a Burkha!

Really-good-moment: We were sitting on the couch surfing frantically one evening in Sydney when my husband turned to me and said, ‘They have Carrefour!’ We both looked at eachother for a minute with misty eyes for one and half seconds before I said, ‘I’m there!’

For anyone that hasn’t experienced the bliss that is known as a french supermarket, its probably for the best. They ruin you for all other supermarkets. (Okay, so English and Japanese supermarkets are pretty great too.) Aisle-upon-aisle of french cheeses, pates and charcuterie, Champagne and Cognac (at reasonable prices no less) and fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. If I die and go to heaven there will be a perfect replica of the Carrefour supermarket in Lille, and I will never get fat eating my way through it.

I was amused to read that Carrefour in the UAE accepts the following methods of payment…UAE Dhs (that’s Dirhams), US Dollars, Saudi Riyals, Kuwaiti Dinars, Omani Ryals, Qatari Riyals, Bahraini Dinars and Euros.

All I can say is.. it will be nice to back in the ‘middle’ of the world again where there are strange and different places all around you, each with their own currency and history. I can’t wait!

One of four Carrefour Supermarkets in Dubai

One of four Carrefour Supermarkets in Dubai