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Reviewing Saudi Women’s Status - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Over the past few years, Saudi women have been active in in their country as they sought to take part and have respected positions, yet at the same time the challenges they are facing continue to rise.

Women in Saudi Arabia started facing more closed doors and greater obstacles and restrictions in the name of religion, traditions or even under the appeals of government regulations.

These restrictions on women have reached an extent that their existence was limited to a “male guardian,” who can be any male member from their families.

The restrictions included conditions that involved their right to finish their studies, find a job, receive treatment, open bank accounts, own and run a business in addition to many other rights.

These decisions do not have any legal basis in the country’s regulations but are mere jurisprudences that consider women as minor and anyone has the right to impose more constraints on them.

In spite of that, it is important to note that these increasing restrictions did not succeed in convincing women to stay home; instead, women were more determined to pursue their higher education to an extent that the number of female university students was greater than males’.

Today, there are more than 250,000 young women in Saudi universities, 10 percent more than the males. The increasing number of educated and qualified women shows that these two contradictory trends cannot go hand in hand.

Moreover, the government cannot encourage women to pursue their and get employed while at the same time allow such restrictions to be put on them.

Last week, an important measure toward addressing the issue was taken when Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz intervened and ordered to review the current procedures and practices, considering all requirements imposed on women, exceptionally, to know its regulatory bases.

This royal intervention hindered the actions and decisions of some groups and bureaucrats, who were using these provisions to prevent women from doing quite anything unless with the consent of a male member of the family.

In case the regulations and jurisprudences were amended, and the arbitrary restrictions and arrests came to an end, the society will change for the better.

It is unreasonable and unacceptable for half of the population to remain disabled and deprived of their jobs and services based on the desire of a radical group.

We are now seeing two completely opposite categories in Saudi society: Those who are with granting women their full rights and those who want women to stay deprived inside their houses.

We see how the government opens schools and universities with free education for girls, provides them with jobs and allocates 20 percent of Shoura council seats for them, which is one of the highest quotas for women in the world’s legislative councils.

The government also encourages women to run for municipal elections and allows them to sit in the first rows in the chambers of commerce and service and media associations as well as in senior government positions.

However, the other category refuses to recognize women’s eligibility and considers them as minors even if they have been qualified as brain surgeons, limiting them to the consent of their guardians on all levels!

Despite all these restrictions, do not underestimate the determination of Saudi women; there are those among them who are challenging these wrong practices, seeking to correct them through the Shoura Council or the Saudi media.

All these issues have been subject for an open debate about the right of women to travel or even drive a car.

Hopes are high for women to achieve their desires, or at least for most of them, and meet halfway the positive spirit of the Saudi Vision’s target, so that the project to develop the whole society succeeds.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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