Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that has faced the flak in the past for its blatant disregard for women rights. Saudi Arabia adheres to the Sharia(known as the Islamic Law) and the holy book of Quran. The traditions mentioned in Quran are present in the constitution of Saudi Arabia. The state does not allow any political affiliations or fair general elections and because of this, political dignitaries from all around the world have labelled Saudi Arabia as an authoritarian dictatorship.
In September last year, King Salman gave an order that lifted the ban on Saudi Arabian women that prohibited them from driving motor vehicles. The rule to let women drive is undeniably the most prominent change in a patriarchal conservative political order that has over time made a considerable differentiation between both the genders, in the process limiting the function of the women in different spheres of life .
The reform was a long time coming as Saudi Arabia was, unfortunately, the last country that had denied its women the basic right of driving a car. According to the new rule, no woman would require sanction or consent from a person who she is legally related to and the presence of a paladin would not be needed while driving. The resolution came into effect at a time when women, for the first time in their lives were allowed inside a sports stadium, which was seen as a step towards a reformed state.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, stated that allowing women to sit behind the wheel was an important part of reforms, adding that with the implementation of this rule, social interaction between both the genders would increase and this would result in an increased participation of women in the professional areas of life. The move to give women the freedom to drive a vehicle, despite the opposition emanating from the conservative factions in the administration, is seen as an attempt by Salman to distance himself from the previous administrations.. Nevertheless, Salman and his father were scared about the fact that such a reform would anger the followers of Sunni Islamic teachings, a group that has asserted their dominance in the country for more than 100 years.
Countries from all over the world put their confidence in Saudi’s decision stating that it was a “bold yet the correct decision made that would bring the state at par with its counterparts.”
It is not a hidden fact that Saudi Arabia was desperately in need of something positive, that would uplift the country’s reputation all around the world as it was still in the midst of geopolitical problems such as its war in Yemen that has left more than a thousand people dead.
The removal of the ban must be seen as a giant step in the field of human rights, for the equality of women in the world of Islam and in Saudi Arabia’s evolution as the leader in the Gulf region. At the same time, lifting the ban will not bring any change to the political and social structure of the country as women are still a victim to the law that is made by their own men. Until and unless there are large-scale reforms that grant equality to women in all walks of life, we should treat this move as a gimmick, the purpose of which is to divert the attention of the world from the larger issues at stake here.
Written by:-Ruchit Rastogi