Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia

Sydney Carr, Ariel Seidle

The rights of women living in Saudi Arabia have been strict throughout many centuries, where the males retain authority over everything they do. The female population in Saudi Arabia is 14.8 million out of 32.28 million, where only 17 to 20 percent are estimated to participate in female labor. However, languidly establishing more freedoms in the male-dominated society, women are able to get their foot in the door and possess more of a voice in public affairs. In 2015, they were finally able to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections for the very first time. In recent months they were allowed into sports stadiums so they could celebrate the 87 anniversary of the country’s founding.

“The women of Saudi Arabia are slowly but surely gaining more and more rights and i’m proud of them,” Junior Ash Kennedy said.

Women are now giving the ability to drive for the first time in history, after King Salman, the current leader of the country, issued a new decree allowing them to do so. Although it was not technically illegal for women to drive, authorities refused to give them licenses starting the De Facto Ban; a ban stopping women from getting licenses. The said ban is to be lifted by June 24, 2018. Saudi Arabian women started a online protest in an attempt to gain the right to drive. The government is hoping that by letting women drive, it will end up boosting the economy. The goal is to increase the number of women in the workforce and allow almost half the population to get behind the wheel. Saudi Arabia is the last country to allow women to drive.

“It’s a really good step for their culture. The more freedom for women they have over there, the better it’ll be, as the whole community will come to together,” Sophomore Emily Hewett said.

The women of Saudi Arabia still cannot do certain activities. such as interaction with men. Women are required to limit the amount of time spent interacting with men not related to them and they cannot get life saving operation without a male relative’s signature . Most of the country is segregated between the two sexes: different entrances, parks, beaches, even public transport in most parts of the country. Women are also segregated within different aspects of daily living, such as in restaurants, while at work, and wherever they go. If one of the sexes mixes with the other during any occurrence, punishment will be brought upon both genders but women usually have the harder punishment.

“I think that it is a very interesting choice to keep genders apart, but if you tell people to stay separated they will want to rebel,” Sophomore Kendall Faust said.

Women also may not marry or divorce without their male guardian’s permission, which is usually their father. When a women gets married, the guardianship switches to the husband, causing additional problems when they wish to divorce.

“Women should be able to get married or divorced without needing permission from a man,” Sophomore Jakob Lemmon said.

Women in Saudi Arabia have made tremendous steps forward in reaching their well earned equality but they still have a long way to go. With gaining new rights like to be able to drive or being allowed to vote, the desire for more freedoms will undergo as a large movement will take place. It’s a long road to equality but it will be worth the fight.