In recent years there have been many reforms for female citizens in Saudi Arabia. For example, in 2015, women were allowed to cast ballots for the first time ever during municipal elections. These elections led to 17 women being appointed to the Consultative Council. In 2016, four women represented Saudi Arabia in the Olympics. Now, Saudi women have finally been granted permission to apply for their own driving licenses and get the behind the wheel of a car.
Although this is a step in the right direction, there are many important decisions that a women in Saudi Arabia cannot make for herself. Sadly, the rules that govern the guardianship of women still restrict many aspects of their everyday lives.
If women want to marry, they must first seek permission from their male guardian (wali). In the event that they want to marry a foreigner, the ministry of interior has to approve the decision.
A Right To A Fair Trial
Women still do not have a right to a fair trial. As it stands, a woman’s testimony is only worth half a man’s in the legal system.
Important Medical Treatment
Before women can have important medical treatment, such as a life-saving operation, they must first produce a written signature from their male relative.
Custody of Children
If women go through divorce, they are only allowed to have custody of their children until the age of seven (boys) and nine (girls).
Women are not usually allowed to leave the home without their wali. They are also not allowed to obtain important travel documents such as passports and identification cards without first being granted permission.
Open A Bank Account
There are now a handful of jobs that women can do without requesting permission from their male guardian. However, women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to open up their own bank account. As a result, they have no control of their finances unless their wali gives them the go ahead.
Freedom To Dress
It is illegal for women in Saudi Arabia to dress for beauty. They are coerced into wearing full length abayas – a long coat worn over clothes – when in public.
Interact With Men
Women can only speak to men (non-family members) for a limited time. There are designated ‘family’ sections and men-only sections in public. Women who are out in restaurants, universities etc. are only allowed to sit in family sections.
Saudi Arabia continues to discriminate against women and girls by denying them the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Just because they are now able to drive without guardianship does not mean that they are in the driving seat. The Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia continue to campaign for their basic rights.
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