Unified law for women hostels

October 23, 2017
Unified law for women hostels

Sahoub Baghdadi


AS a large number of women are forced to move away from their parents and close relatives either for study or work, many of them face different problems that cannot be imagined by people staying outside the walls of their houses.

Let me start by explaining the various problems female students face at hostels. Many parents will not find any option except sending their daughters to other cities for higher studies. The university hostel will be the first and last choice for them to ensure safety and security of their daughters.

By safety we mean the hostel should provide safety and protection to its inmates from potential dangers and address their life issues such as health problems and emergency situations. Parents will think that their daughter will find someone to console her and support her at times of illness and other problems. Unfortunately the reality is just the opposite.

While I was traveling on a flight from Dammam to Riyadh I got acquainted with a 20-year-old girl. When I saw tears in her eyes, I asked her whether it was due to allergy. Then she started explaining to me her endless suffering at the university hostel due to maltreatment of its female supervisors and strict regulations.

Article 1 of the Students’ Housing Regulations insists that the hostel should create a suitable environment for the comfortable stay of students coming from outside Riyadh, and provide them with all facilities.

Secondly, it should provide psychological and health care. Thirdly, the hostel should provide students with social care. Finally, it should communicate with relevant authorities to ensure student stability.

The law explains procedures for exit and entry of students, visits of parents and friends and taking them to places outside the hostel. They should obtain the academic schedule at the beginning of every semester and follow it strictly every day.

According to the existing regulations, a female student would not be allowed to go with her husband if his name was not registered among guardians at the time of admission or if he fails to get an authorization letter from the girl’s father.

The girl needs approval of her parents for everything including the use of various means of transportation. Taxis often refuse to come to the hostel due to strict procedures and documentation a driver should go through before picking the student from hostel.

There are specific hours for visits and visitors have to fill a special form for each visit and visitors and should specify their arrival and departure timings. If a student returns to the hostel after 10 p.m. for whatever reasons and even if she is accompanied by her guardian, she will be asked to give a written undertaking. There is every possibility that it will end up in her eviction.

That girl also informed me that a student should report to the unit supervisor to ensure she was present in the hostel during specified times. Students are not allowed to take photos, use candles and place boards. The supervisor inspects residential unit and report violations.

The girl recalled her suffering during the last four years as a result of changing regulations. The supervisor once pretended to take her opinion on regulations. When she objected to certain rules, she was abused and subjected to violence. This means there is no room for dialogue and raising complaints.

The girl also pointed out that when an inmate complained about the supervisor’s maltreatment, the psychologist on duty said: “I have already heard about your complaint from the supervisor. If you think you can cut our livelihood, you should know that it’s impossible because we are government employees.” This is the kind of treatment received by inmates of the hotel from its officials and experts.

A parent or guardian will not be able to see an inmate even for a few minutes if they fail to come at the specific time. The father must give authorization letters to the mother, brother, uncle, and any other person who wanted to visit the girl. Another important issue is the poor performance of the hostel driver. If the girls ask him to purchase some books or other academic requirements, he would bring them only after three days.

Incidentally, an Asian nurse confided to me that she has been subjected to abuse for last three years as she was locked up in a room in a clinic where she was working. The clinic’s management has been preventing her and other nurses from going out for any reason. The situation of these nurses was similar to those hostel girls who were allowed to go out only once in a month accompanied by officials.

The nurse asked me, "Do you have a night life? I mean, do you go to restaurants and markets in the night? Is it possible here?" She told me that when she longed for her family and nation she wished to go out for a little walk. When she is unable to do that she would lie on the bed with face down and cry.

In the end, I have noticed a common factor between the students’ hostel and nurses’ housing as they follow changing regulations. We need a set of laws that are recognized internationally to protect the honor and rights of women staying in such hostels.

As a woman who has seen tears of two women within a week, I appeal to authorities to set out a unified law to regulate activities of women’s hostels to ensure progress and prosperity of women, giving them a suitable atmosphere for education and work.

October 23, 2017
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