By Doha Ghouth
JEDDAH – Many young Saudi women detest the societal norm to ban camera phones in women’s sections during weddings and graduation ceremonies.
They call it absurd that such conservative norms exist in the 21st century. Moreover, they say it is problematic for women to leave their mobile phones outside the wedding hall and many a time they end up losing their phones.
In a Saudi Gazette survey of 300 females in the age group of 20-45, 95 percent of women own smart phones, 4 percent own camera phones and only 1 percent have a secondary non-camera phone.
“Personally, I understand the reasons for concern, but I believe having surveillance is enough,” said Dr. Niven Farid, a psychologist. She says trust in people can be developed through installing means of surveillance. That would put an end to absurd norms. Many women dread social events like weddings or graduation ceremonies because they feel they are deprived of what is their property.
“It is simply not fair to take away what is yours because of the slight possibility that one out of a 1,000 people may take someone’s picture and create a scandal out of it,” said Ahlam, a King Abdulaziz University student.
Ahlam remembers that back “in 2004 it was okay to have phones taken away because there were very few camera phones in the market and people weren’t very familiar with the idea”.
Now, in 2012, she finds the norm ridiculous.
“Smart phones might have their disadvantages but they are called smart because they make life so much more easier,” she said.
“Moreover, banning of smart phones in schools and universities is a regulation only for the student, which is not fair.”
According to psychologist Dr. Farid, such rules “make students even more rebellious because they feel they are not being trusted by their superiors and hence give their superiors even greater reasons to not trust them.”
About 30 percent of the respondents claim their phones were misplaced, if not lost or stolen, at social events.
“I personally don’t go to weddings or any other events that demand I leave my phone at the gate anymore, because I once did and they misplaced my phone. I had no means of contacting my husband and that made my ride home very difficult,” said Amanda Mosaily.
Impounding phones is not only bothersome but also leaves attendees very agitated, said Mariam Mohamed, a coordinator at a wedding hall in Jeddah.
“We used to impound phones at the gate. But attendees are either smuggling them in or getting agitated. So we now only supervise and confiscate when needed.”
“Sales of non-camera phones have rapidly gone down in the past five years,” said Mishaal Zaid, a cell phone merchant. “I’ve stopped importing phones without cameras. Nobody buys them anymore.”