Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality



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In Saudi Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens. They cannot drive or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian: a brother, father, cousin or even a son. But faced with the fall in oil prices and the aspirations of a young generation hooked on social media, the authorities are gradually relaxing the rules. FRANCE 24’s team reports from the kingdom.
In December 2015, amid much publicity, Saudi Arabia held historic elections for municipal councils. For the first time, women had the right to vote and to run for office. Although this was a clear step forward, it remained symbolic as only 21 women were elected to a total of more than 2,000 seats. Since then, things are not necessarily going smoothly for these women in the town halls where they are supposed to have a voice.
In reality, the change is mainly driven by the Saudi authorities’ need to diversify the economy, which is completely dependent on oil revenues. Today, Saudi women are obtaining access to areas that were previously forbidden to them. Some are now lawyers, pharmacists or even appointed to the head of the stock exchange or a large bank.
Another factor that explains this feminine revolution is the demographic reality of the kingdom. Currently, 70 percent of Saudis are under 30 years of age. They are seeking room to breathe in a society suffocated by tradition and religion. Faced with these aspirations, the authorities have decided to relax certain rules and promote sports and entertainment for women. They have also ordered the infamous religious police to slightly loosen their grip on society. Young people are now able to take some liberties with traditional outfits and customs.
For the few activists who continue to fight for true female emancipation, these changes are largely cosmetic. They say the country needs drastic measures, including the end of the male guardianship system and the ban on women driving. Although these subjects appear ultra-sensitive, even some figures close to power admit the changes are necessary. But the road to equality for Saudi women is still long and full of pitfalls.
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48 thoughts on “Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

  1. This leads to economic inequality, class stigma, social divisions and a segregated society. The arranged marriage system is also unusually hard on women and their families, who have more to lose — financially, legally and in terms of social standing — from an arranged marriage gone wrong

  2. They have subjugated women for the sake of religion, in these Arab countries women are not independent at all. I know these things are happening, but i can’t say everything here. They are an uneducated ignorant nation.

  3. Restricting women is essentially halving your population and economy. You have half the police force you could have, you have less brains to think of ideas, you have half the workforce that you should have. Really the Muslim countries aren't doing anything to help their economy. Literally the man has to do everything.

  4. So you are saying that you guys respect the women more than us first this Is her choice and let's talk about porn industry doin anything with for money I think that's what respect mean to you

  5. Those who want to live like the European countries can go out of the Holy land an do what they want that will be problem for Muslims this is Holy Land nothing New York or UK….this is the Land of my beloved Prophet peace and blessings be upon him they're doing everything to destroy it.. Be careful

  6. okay… here people are talking about women rights or their dresses in saudi.. listen people thay are preparing themselves for jannah.. we all also should do… but Alas we are just not aware of jahannum and pay attention in this life … we almost forget about next life after death… shame on us not them

  7. It’s part of the religion, there is no such thing as living in old ages. If you don’t like it don’t talk about it. Islam doesn’t treat them as second class people. The fact that women dress modestly shows Islam respects them. Let’s not talk about rapes in America for instance.

  8. Listen carefully and if you are truly sincere, then take this answer as the most upright answer to this matter. 14:24 Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t forget that this Sheikh is aware and considerate about the words his using. He will not lie as he is regarded an authority about this matter. If you merely looking towards it from a western standpoint, you will never be satisfied.

  9. Did you know that Women in America were were forbidden to do these things in 1967?Here is a list of 13 things that were off limits to American Women.American women were in the same boat a women in Saudi Arabia are now.

    13 things American Women could not do in 1967
    1. Serve On A Jury
    2. Get A Credit Card
    3. Easily Accessible Birth Control
    4. Run The Boston Marathon
    5. Buy Women's Athletic Shoes
    6. Have The Option Of Attending Co-Ed Ivy League School
    7. Keep Their Job If They Became Pregnant
    8. Attend A Military Academy Or Fight In Combat
    9. Practice Law
    10. Refuse Sex With Their Husbands
    11. Legally Obtain An Abortion
    12. Take A Stand Against Sexual Harassment
    13. Take Legally-Mandated Maternity Leave

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