Why women fall prey to the idea of a ‘better life abroad’
Every so often, stories surface of Saudi women fleeing their family homes to live outside the Kingdom. This has been troubling families across different parts of the Kingdom, as they believe that some groups are encouraging women to engage in this behavior.
Iman Al-Asiri, an employee in King Khaled University, disagrees. She says the main cause for women choosing to flee their homes is bad treatment in the house. “Some families suppress their daughters and prevent them from leaving the house at times, which leaves women disappointed and wanting to leave,” she pointed out. Al-Asiri said her city in Asir has been home to many stories of women fleeing their homes to Jeddah or abroad. “There are men who incite women against their families and lure them under the name of love and attention. These women might join terrorist groups or practice vice,” she added, hoping that families will revive their role as keepers of unity in the household.
One social worker in the Saudi-German hospital, Sabah Al-Zahar, said that in light of modernization and globalization, many women in Saudi society face problems with their families. “Women tend to want to imitate their friends and reach higher levels of freedom,” Al-Zahar explained. She said that “families need to establish a loving and nurturing environment, and remain as close to their daughters as possible so that nobody can convince them to leave the house,” she added, urging mothers to understand the needs of their daughters, and gain their trust.
Maduah Al-Amaduah, an expert in criminology, said that women fleeing their homes is no new phenomenon. “There are statistical standards to judge if a phenomena becomes a real social problem,” he said, explaining that many researchers make a big mistake when they call female flight a crime, “Most of the fleeing cases happen with women who are victims of crime, abuse, violation of their fundamental human rights, or if they fear for their lives,” Al-Amaduah said.
He noted that the cultural and economic changes in recent times, including increased poverty and unemployment, have dramatically affected child rearing methods of families. The president of the Family Development Center in Al-Ahsa, Khalid Al-Haliby, said that 1,400 runaway cases were registered in one year.
Professor of sociology at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Mansour bin Askar, has written a scientific paper about this issue. He said that around 1,500 to 3,000 women leave their homes in any given year, and that a high number of them are lured into immoral actions in Arab countries. “Their friends in other countries claim that they will provide women with safe places in Arab countries to spend the summer vacation, only for them to discover that these women are working in immoral, unethical and potentially dangerous occupations,” he observed.
Askar’s study suggested that fathers and sons in the family are abandoning their responsibilities within the family, and putting all of the pressure on the women. “This increased pressure, coupled with the restrictions imposed on them, creates a serious psychological problem and prompts some of them to get away from live at home,” Askar said.