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A new era for Saudi women
Posted:Sep 27, 2017
 
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A royal decree has been issued in the Saudi Kingdom allowing women to drive cars from June 2018 onwards.
 
Saudi Arabia was the only country in the Gulf region where the ban still existed. Women in the neighbouring Gulf countries have been allowed to drive.
 
The Saudi government is known to follow a strict interpretation of Hanbali jurisprudence mixed with traditional customs of the Arabian Peninsula, restricting women from a variety of activities without the approval of a direct male guardian.
 
The movement for greater mobility of women in the Kingdom had begun in 1990 when dozens of women drove in Riyadh. They were arrested and had their passports confiscated. In 2011, a woman was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving in Jeddah but the sentence was later overturned. The lifting of the ban marks a long struggle of human rights campaigners in the country, some of whom have had to flee citing shame campaigns, jail time and death threats.
 
Now, governments across the world have welcomed the decree, which was also announced in the UN. American president Donald Trump has welcomed the move, describing it as a “positive step”.
 
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report ranks Saudia Arabia 141 out of 144 countries for gender parity, despite women constituting 13 percent of the work force as of 2015.
 
King Salman has begun a series of moves for improved access to healthcare and education for women. Women were granted the right to vote in the 2015 local elections. They are now represented in the Consultative Assembly as well. These moves are part of Saudia Arabia’s Vision 2030.
 
While these development has been welcomed by many, there are still significant restrictions on women such as getting access to health care, enrolling in universities and travelling abroad without the permission of their male guardians. Alongside addressing these concerns, the Saudi government will have to recognise full legal equality between men and women before it can claim credit for the positive developments.
 
 
 
 
 
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