Saudi Arabia finally moves towards gender equality

By Zachary Anderson
On October 4, 2017

Illustration courtesy of Carlis Latuff, Wikipedia

After years of restriction and protest, Saudi Arabian women have finally gained the right to operate a motor vehicle.

Last Tuesday, Saudi Arabian foreign ministry officials announced the royal decree on both television and Twitter that women would now be allowed to drive. During the live reading of the decree, it was mentioned that the action to change restrictions would help benefit the outlook of public relations for the nation, as many viewed Saudi Arabia negatively for its unlawful rights towards women.

The decree will be going under a 30-day development plan and is expected to be in full effect by June of 2018. Saudi Arabia was the only country to restrict women from driving up until this point, as many find this to be a historical landmark in the battle for human rights.

“This prohibition on driving is just one in a vast series of laws and policies which prevent women from doing many things,” states Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.

Saudi Arabian women face many challenges within their everyday lives. Though gaining the right to operate an automobile is a big step in the fight for equal rights, there are many other every day tasks that have yet to be granted accessible to women. As a nation that strongly enforces male consent, women face the challenge of restriction from many everyday happenings, such as travel, employment, marriage, divorce and even the way that they dress. Women must rely on a male’s consent, as women may not participate unless granted the permission by their male guardian.

Ambassador Khaled bin Salman sees this as a big step in the progression of the country. Currently in Saudi Arabia, government officials are enforcing “Vision 2030,” an effort to socially and economically modernize the country.

"In order to change women's participation in the workforce we need them to be able to drive to work. We need them to move forward, we need them to improve our economy,” he tells CNN News. Women make up about half of the population of Saudi Arabia, many of whom have received higher education that bin Salman believes will benefit in the modernization of the economy.

The move made by Saudi Arabian officials is a great start in the fight for equal rights. With the ability to drive, women now possess the freedom to travel without the approval needed from a male guardian. To an economic benefit, women now have the ability to apply for employment and get jobs. There are many things that women are still not permitted to do, but with time, Saudi Arabia and its developing leaders will continue to modernize the sociological patterns that have brought the country down for years. 

zanderson@ramapo.edu

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