Ladies and gentlemen, this a critical moment in history! No, it’s not about landing on Mars. Nor is it about a new medical invention. Rather, in 2018, the Saudi Arabia government finally allowed women to drive cars. An important step for women’s rights.
Women’s rights – going for a walk
Women’s rights have a long way to go. In Saudi Arabia, all females must have a male guardian, typically a father, brother or husband. Girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians. So let’s say a woman wants to go outside for a walk. Her husband would then decide if she could or couldn’t go. She has no ability whatsoever to go without permission.
So, the system makes it nearly impossible for victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse to take legal steps. This is because the police often insist that women and girls obtain their guardian’s authorization to file a complaint. This holds true even when the complaint is against the guardian.
The woman in Saudi Arabia explained how nearly impossible it is for women to conduct business. One woman explained:
For me to go to any government agency or to the court to buy or sell property, as a woman I am obligated to bring two men as witnesses to testify to my identity, and four male witnesses to testify that the first two are credible witnesses, and actually know me. Where is any woman going to find six men to go with her to the court?! It’s hard for me to get my legal rights…the solution is to use one’s connections, pay a bribe or be sharp-tongued.
Women in Saudi Arabia are forced to follow a strict dress code. The majority of women wear an abaya – a long cloak – and a head scarf. But this does not stop the religious police from harassing women for exposing what they consider to be too much flesh or wearing too much make-up.
The majority of public buildings, including offices, banks and universities, have separate entrances for the men and women. As well, public transportation, parks, beaches and amusement parks also have segregated areas for men and women.