As country known for having a conservative government, Saudi Arabia recently received recognition for implementing progressive changes.
Late last September, King Salman issued a decree allowing Saudi Arabian women to drive. Before that, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to place a specific ban against women driving, frustrating people across the globe. The official law allowing women to drive will be put into place on June 24, later this year.
Naturally, Saudi women were ecstatic about the news, and many have started to practice driving so they can get their license. Some women have already dreamed about the cars that they’re going to buy once the law passes. This news was met with an equally excited reaction from the rest of the world, making #Women2Drive trend on Twitter.
In addition to finally being able to drive, Saudi Arabian women were recently allowed to enter soccer stadiums that were previously described as “male-only.” On January 12, Saudi Arabian women entered the King Fahd stadium, King Abdullah Sport City stadium, and the Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd stadium to watch a soccer match between Al-Ahli F.C. and Al-Batin F.C. In addition, the stadiums opened a separate pray area, cafe, and medical facility for the female spectators who wish to attend the game. Lamya Khaled Nasser, one of the fans who attended the game said, “This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future. I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change.”
Furthermore, on February 1, 2018, more than 100,000 Saudi Arabian women applied to work at a passport control job. This was the first time that women were able to work at passport control, a job that carries a military title. The Saudi Arabian government hopes to raise the number women in the workforce from 22% to 30%.
Outside of women’s rights, Saudi Arabia is making progressive strides in other aspects of life. The government now allows the construction of movies theaters after almost 35 years of being banned. Many think that Saudi Arabia’s drastic changes are part of a plan called “Vision 2030,” a plan formed to help Saudi Arabia’s future. This plan is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in an effort to modernize Saudi Arabian society. However, while thousands have gathered in support of Saudi Arabian women’s new rights, others believe that Saudi Arabia is not doing as much as they need to.
Women in Saudi Arabia are still required to ask permission from their husbands or their fathers go certain places, they have to obey strict dress codes, and they are prohibited from interacting with unrelated males.
I spoke to some Mountain Lakes students about their opinions on the changes happening in Saudi Arabia. sophomore Lina Petronino said, “I think what people fail to understand is that allowing more freedom to women in Saudi Arabia is a huge step forward. We live in a far more progressive society, and we have to take as many victories as we can, no matter how small. I’m not trying to justify their examples of patriarchy; I just don’t think it’s realistic to demand more immediately after such growth.”
Sophomore Zara Khan spoke about how she had a cousin who had moved to Saudi Arabia and was not allowed to drive or exercise other freedoms because she was not Saudi Arabian. She says, “If it wasn’t discriminating against non-Arab women, I think it would be a good start since you can’t implement a series of serious changes all at once.”
Hopefully in the future, Saudi Arabian women will be granted more rights and the country will progress towards a society that embraces equality for all.