JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
Published — Friday 14 February 2014
Last update 15 February 2014 12:46 pm
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia) has officially prevented women from visiting medical clinics without male guardians.
This came after a member of the Council of Senior Scholars issued a “fatwa” (edict) prohibiting women from visiting male doctors without having male guardians present.
“Islamic law does not permit women to visit their doctors without male guardians,” said Qais Al-Mubarak, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars. “Women are prohibited from exposing body parts to male doctors in Islamic law, especially during childbirth. This does not include medical emergencies. Islamic jurisprudence makes exceptions,” he added.
Male guardians can only be the next of kin in Islam. They are sons, grandsons, husbands, brothers, fathers or uncles.
Sources said that Haia members recently issued orders to employees working at a nutrition center not to admit women patients unless a guardian accompanies them during their weekly visits. This decision caused huge losses to the nutrition center in a single week, according to the source.
Many women have opposed this decision, saying their male relatives are not available to accompany them on a weekly basis.
“This is going to be a huge burden for us. Many of us don’t have male guardians. Those of us who do, can’t depend on them, as they have work and travel commitments,” said Muneera Dawood, a stay-at-home mother.
“Does this mean that I have to wait for my husband to be free to go on my weekly checkup? This is a serious matter. Going to the doctor is not a luxury like going to the hair salon,” she said.
Al-Mubarak said male doctors could conduct medical examinations on female patients only if female physicians are unavailable and only if male guardians accompany them. “Unaccompanied visits to male doctors can have negative implications,” he said.
The owner of a private hospital in Jeddah said that most female patients already attend to their appointments with their male guardians.
“We do not allow any patient, whether a man or a woman, to be inside the doctor’s room without having a nurse present. Aside from them having to assist the doctor with their work, they are also there to prevent free mixing between doctor and patient,” he said.
“We don’t see women coming to the hospital as un-Islamic and we usually don’t even see women coming alone, so we don’t have a problem with this new fatwa,” he said.
A local Jeddah clinic said it has not received word from the Ministry of Health on the matter. “Our clinic is like a beauty center for women to get facials and undergo other forms of skin treatment. It is almost impossible for men to join them and I’m sure this would make other patients uncomfortable,” said Dr. Waleed Abdulmajeed, a dermatologist at the local clinic.
“We will not ask our patients to be accompanied by guardians unless we receive an official note from the ministry itself,” he said.