Saudi Arabia has finally granted women the right to drive without guardian permission or accompaniment.
The ruling was granted last night by King Salman, and will allow women to apply for a licence on their own.
Considered by many to be the most repressive country in the world, the lifted ban is progress towards gender equality in Saudi Arabia.
But, when asked if the ruling will lead to relaxed guardianship rules, the king would not comment.
While plans for the motion will be put in place in the next 30 days, there are still many things women still can’t do in the extremely conservative country:
Apply for a passport:
Although women are allowed to own a passport or national identification card, they must have permission from their guardian before applying for one. The male (who is usually the husband, father or brother) must authorise the document in person and also sign the dependent’s forms. The woman must also bring her family ID card along, too.
Get a fair hearing in court:
In a Saudi court “the testimony of one man equals that of two women”. Women who manage to bring a male into the legal system are usually ignored or not taken seriously.
This is especially dangerous in cases of sexual assault, where a woman who complains to the authorities can end up being punished for adultery.
Receive equal inheritance:
Under Saudi Arabian law, inheritance must be split a certain way. Rather than being split equally between a son and a daughter, the son legally owns double the amount of the daughter.
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The ‘logic’ behind this is that women are not expected to financially contribute towards the household, and she is not responsible for any others in the family.
Mix freely with members of the opposite sex:
Women are not allowed to work in places with male members of staff, and must not associate with them without a guardian in place. Getting a taxi without their guardian is considered sinning, and eating at restaurants can only be done in the ‘family’ section, where men are not allowed.
There are usually two doors on Saudi houses – one for males and another for females. In 2002, 15 school girls were left to burn to death because male firefighters could not enter the building as the girls did not have religious coverings on.
Work in high government:
Women make up 23% of Saudi Arabia’s workforce (although there are hopes to increase this to 28% by 2020) so while it’s not illegal for women to work, it’s frowned upon. In order for a woman to justify working, it must not interrupt her household work, she must get permission from her guardian and she cannot work in the same place as male employees.
Furthermore, she cannot work in the courts or in high government – a contributing factor as to why gender segregation laws in the country are slow to change.