Saudi Women Drive Toward More Equality After Ban Is Liftedby Opinion Express June 26, 2018 0 comments
Learning to drive will still depend on the goodwill of males – but for many Saudi women, the end of the ban offers a first taste of independence. Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women driving. While the few women who have driver’s licenses are thrilled about hitting the road, activists warned that the journey to full women’s rights will be a long one.
The wheels of justice turn slowly but the wheels on their vehicles turned exceedingly well for women in Saudi Arabia who took to the streets in their cars on June 24 after the conservative Muslim Kingdom finally lifted the ban on women driving, seen for a long came as a symbol of the gamut of oppression women in the Islamic world undergo. From the capital city of Riyadh to the most confined areas of Jeddah, women were seen celebrating even as there were bitter moments due to the barrage of vicious comments from many men as they struggled to come to terms with this new reality. Allowing women to drive will mean greater independence for them as it gives them access to mobility independent of male members of their family, create more employment opportunities and allow for a greater, more visible role for women in day-to-day life. The decision to lift the ban on women driving was pushed through by the reformist faction of the Saudi Government led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It follows on a series of decisions taken earlier: Since 2015, women have been allowed to vote and stand for municipal elections, allowed to celebrate in sports stadia and encouraged to enrol in universities across the country which have witnessed more women graduating than men. The reforms that the Saudi King and the Crown Prince have undertaken are to achieve ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ which believes in the economic and social liberation of the Kingdom’s subjects to end the country’s dependence on a foreign workforce and oil. Women are, at least on paper, equal participants in this effort. But let’s not get carried away.
The present move must be seen as a baby step towards ending gender segregation in that country. The biggest hurdle is to repeal the draconian Guardianship System which stipulates that all women in Saudi Arabia must have a male guardian whose consent is essential for any activity undertaken by women — to marry, divorce, travel. study or even get access to medical care. Thankfully, the monarchy has called for a review of the law but there are miles to go before this system is finally thrown into the dustbin of history. Saudi women are still expected in public to be fully covered with an abaya. They are also not allowed to swim, interact with men other than their close relatives or to try on clothes while shopping. Seriously. Sure, let’s celebrate the lifting of the driving ban. But there’s miles to go yet.
Courtesy: The Pioneer