‘Gulf lovers use smartphones to beat segregation’ was the headline of a news article published by Al Arabiya on June 28th 2013. It immediately caught my eye: lovers beating each other with phones? Throwing phones over segregating walls? I did not know what to make of this headline.
In the United Arab Emirates and all across the conservative Gulf countries, dating is unacceptable while arranged marriages are the norm, so to beat the segregation imposed by a stern society, young men and women meet virtually.
Are smartphones the way to avoid segregation between men and women? Or does it affect certain norms and values? In any case, chatting applications on smartphones create a new platform for men and women to meet, while not having to worry about a controlling society.
‘Despite the modernisation in the United Arab Emirates, families still hold on to their traditional conservative values,’ says Jamila Khanji, adviser of research and studies at the Family Development Foundation in Abu Dhabi.
Families still arrange their children’s marriages. However, times are slowly changing. Sometimes the engaged couple is allowed to meet, or longer engagement periods are allowed. That way, the couple is able to get to know each other a little better before they’re eternally linked in marriage.
WhosHere is rapidly changing this dating scene. By turning on the application, men can connect with women sitting in the ‘women and families’ section. Before the smartphone age, men used to throw pieces of paper with their phone number scribbled onto it over to the women. The Saudi telecom Authority warned several times that applications like Skype and Whatsapp would be blocked. Authorities cite security concerns to justify their actions of blocking and censure the contents of these messages.
Is this the way forward for dating? The author’s of the article do not think so. Most relationships which begin this way, usually don’t end in marriage. Is culture still too strong? Will segregation outlive smartphones and human inventiveness?
Phys.org: http://phys.org/news/2013-06-gulf-lovers-smartphones-segregation.html#jCp, consulted 08-07-2013.
Stockvault, ‘Smartphone’, http://www.stockvault.net/photo/113844/smartphone, consulted 08-07-2013.