Women in Saudi Arabia By Emma Cox

Living in Saudi Arabia as a woman is difficult. You are not allowed to do most things that men do. You have several restrictions based entirely on your gender and endure all the gender roles of women. You have limitations on driving, appearance, interactions, leisure activities, competing in sports, voting and running for election and even simple things like reading and opening a bank account.

Driving a Car

There is no official law banning women from driving, but because of religion, a woman driving a car is not to be permitted. It is said to “undermine social values”. However, since the 1990s, there have been various campaigns against the ban. Although these campaigns did not achieve major success, women are now able to drive their children to school or a family member to hospital.

Clothing and Make-up

Men can wear almost anything they want in Saudi Arabia, a country that regularly has temperature of 40 degrees or more. However, women have a strict dress code made by the Islamic government. Women are forbidden to dress in anything that is not the traditional full-length body robe. Only their eyes and hands are allowed to be exposed in public or the religious police, also known as “Mutaween”, will harass them. They are to wear modest clothes and not show their beauty.

Interactions with Men

In Saudi Arabia, women are limited on their interactions with the men that they are not related to in any way. The majority of public buildings, including banks and universities, have different entrances for each gender and male and females are constantly segregated. Transport, parks and beaches are also examples of places where men and women are divided. Women are not allowed to use the same public swimming pools and gyms available to men. If there are criminal charges due to the mixing of genders, both the male and females will be punished, however it will be harsher for woman.

Competing in Sports

Saudi women were first allowed to compete in the Olympics at the London Olympics in 2012. The competitors were labeled as ‘prostitutes’ due to the beliefs that women should not participate in sport. The women who were brave enough to compete and go against gender expectations were to have a male guardian and wear a “sharia-compliant” sports kit, which covered their hair.

Voting and Elections

2015 was the first year that Saudi women could stand for or vote in elections. This would give them limited power in their communities. However, women can’t stand for or vote for higher positions of governance. Female candidates have to speak behind partitions and be represented by a male.

Opening a Bank Account and Reading

Even though Saudi Arabia has seen an increase in women employment and women running for election, they are continued to by restricted from freedom because men are still needed or even the simplest tasks, like opening a bank account. Also, before women are to read any sort of fashion magazine, they have to be carefully edited and censored in order to not offend religious beliefs.

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