Women in Saudi Arabia have started being issued with driver's licenses. Here's what they still can't do

Narjas Zatat@Narjas_Zatat
Tuesday 05 June 2018 13:00
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Picture:(HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images ))

Saudi Arabia finally decided to grant its women driving licences.

Ten women have been issued with driver’s licences, ahead of 24 June, when the kingdom will officially end its controversial ban on female drivers.

Officials are expecting some 2,000 women to pursue licences in the week, according to CNN.

Despite the landmark decision, the country remains one of the most religiously conservative in the world, and its female citizens remain heavily restricted, in both a political and social sense.

Here are a number of ways women are unable to self-govern in Saudi Arabia:

1. Dress how they want.

Female dress code in Saudi Arabia is policed, and based on a conservative reading of Islamic Law. As such, ‘dressing for beauty’ is illegal. Fully length abayas must be worn by all women in public.

The face does not need to be covered, However, a prominent cleric is pushing for further modesty, and urges women to avoid “any abaya that has any decorations…No embellishment, no slits, no openings”.

2. Marry.

Women cannot get married without explicit permission from their male guardian. Those who wish to marry foreign men must get approval from the ministry of interior.

3. Publicly compete in sports.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting the Olympic Games without women, and Prince Fahad bin Jalawi al-Saud said it was on the grounds that "our society can be very conservative" and "has a hard time accepting that women can compete in sports".

When the conservative country did send two women to compete in the games for the first time, in 2012, a cleric called them ‘”prostitutes”. They had to be accompanied by a male guardian.

4. Open their own bank account.

Women are not allowed to have their own bank accounts without permission.

5. Interact with men who are not family.

Women in Saudi Arabia have limited contact with men who are not members of their family. In public, including in restaurants, there are ‘family’ sections and a part that’s reserved just for men.

6. Have custody of children.

When women get divorced, they can have custody of their children temporarily: for boys, until they reach the age of seven, and for girls, the age of nine.

7. Apply for a passport.

Women cannot apply for a passport without permission from a male guardian.

8. Get a fair trial.

In Saudi Arabia, a woman’s testimony is worth half of that of a man’s, and she is also entitled to only half an inheritance, in comparison to brothers.

9. Conduct different kinds of business.

Business women often have to call two men to testify to her character in the event of opening a new business.

H/T The Independent and The Week and CNN

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