‘we did it’
This week, Saudi Arabia have become the final country to allow women to drive, finally lifting the ban that has gained international disapproval and has raised questions concerning Saudi Arabia’s oppressive rule over women.
Women in Saudi face jail time if they are caught behind the wheel, with the country receiving considerable criticism from human rights activists on their controversial legal system.
The lifting of the ban can definitely be seen as a move in the correct direction for Saudi Arabia, but is it enough, and how much more needs to be done to ensure more human rights within the country?
The Guardian have commented this week that ‘women are still not in the driving seat’, referring to the oppressive restrictions that are still present in the country, where women cannot ‘marry, work, study, travel or seek healthcare‘ without the permission of a man, be it their husband or their father, who are usually assigned as their legal male guardians.
Saudi women can also not marry a foreigner unless they have sought approval from the ministry, they also are unable to pass on their nationality to their own children, who have to apply for a VISA to stay in the country.
Saudi Arabia is definitely the most male dominated country in the world, even if young girls and women escape, they are quickly caught by Saudi agents and returned to their guardians, who could have likely have been their abusers.
Due to Western backlash and criticism, Saudi is now being seen to make a series of what the Guardian has labelled as ‘cosmetic‘ reforms, actions that are not actually seen to change the way of life for women in a drastic way.
The move to allow female drivers has sparked criticism online, as people are calling for much more to be addressed, alongside the lifting of the ban.
David Burger commented that the ban is ‘an encouraging sign, but banning women from driving ranks about 8,349th on Saudi Arabia’s list of human rights violations‘, whilst people have argued that the whole notion of a lift on the ban is ‘fake freedom‘, as it is failing to address much more pressing and harmful issues, from abuse, child marriage and the execution of gay people; ‘as long as the rights of millions of Muslim women remain subject to the whims of male monarchs: driving around is at best fake freedom’.
The lifting of the ban on female driving has came just a week after the first groups of women were let into a sport’s stadium, whilst some women were braving the ban before it was lifted, getting behind the wheel in protest.
There are some signs of change concerning the general knowledge and opinion of women in the country, as Saudi cleric was banned from preaching last week due to his comment that women’s brains shrink to a quarter of the size when they go shopping.
The fact that the ban has been lifted is undoubtedly a positive, yet it is 2017, and Saudi were the last to lift this controversial restriction.
The country still has a long way to go in accepting women as individual beings capable of rational decisions, Manal-Al-Sharif commented this morning; ‘Today we are the last country on earth to finally allow women to drive…we did it’.