“The development and the change that has happened in the society of Saudi Arabia has been dramatic over the last hundred years… We’ve moved from a very, very different place a hundred years ago to where we are today and we’re continuing to develop,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz said during an interview with British news website UnHerd.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is moving in a positive direction when it comes to establishing gender equality and Sharia law does not contradict equality between men and women, the Riyadh’s ambassador to the UK affirmed. “I firmly believe that Saudi Arabia is moving positively in the right direction. And we’ve opened up a lot in the last four or five years.” He added, stressing the fact that women are now allowed as one of the positive changes in the Kingdom: “You’ve seen the changes in the last three years, women driving for instance.”
The Ambassador explained that the Sharia law, the Islamic law,is compatible with gender equality.“Sharia law is often misunderstood. It is adaptable, and if you look throughout the history of Islam, things have adapted based on the circumstances that people are in.”Abdar Bin Abdulaziz indicated, stressing that Saudi Arabia is not looking to more “Westernized”, but its’ about developing what is right for Saudis.
The Prince-diplomatic affirmed that religion is “at the heart” of the Saudi identity and part of daily life in the Kingdom: “Going to the mosque isn’t something you do once a week, you do it every day.”According to the World Bank report published in January, Saudi Arabia made the biggest progress globally toward gender equality since 2017. Riyadh instituted significant reforms over the past two years.
And its’ not the only Arab country, Bahrain has introduced legislation to prevent discrimination in the workplace, Jordan eliminated legal restrictions on women’s ability to work at night, Morocco expanded women’s land rights; and Tunisia introduced critical laws to combat domestic violence.We all need to applaud these achievements and advancements, but there is still so much more work to be done.
Today, in Saudi Arabia, women are generally expected to wear the full Hijab in public, with only the eyes and hands being visible.There is a strict policy of sex segregation in public places – including work places and restaurants, with facilities often being of a lesser quality than for men. Even though women’s literacy is high compared to some countries, educational opportunities are heavily gendered – with women being effectively prohibited from studying traditionally male subjects such as engineering and law – 97% of Female degrees are in education or the social sciences, which are deemed to be suitable for women.
Recently the Saudi leadership allowed women to travel without being accompanied by a male familiar and to drive. Despite these progresses, there is still the possibility of being lashed and sent to jail for committing adultery, even if the woman is victim of a gang rape.
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