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Saudi Arabian Driving Decree Is a Big Step…But Not Big Enough

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Welcome to the Driver's Seat

Sonia Rao, Opinion Editor

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The country of Saudi Arabia is known for having limited rights for women, such as being the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive.  However, on September 27th, 2017, Saudi Arabian women gained the right to drive for the very first time.  Thanks to the decree issued by King Salman, they will now be able apply for their driver’s license without getting the permission of their male guardians.  Previously, women who drove in public risked being fined and arrested.  This decree is set to be implemented by June of 2018.  Although this is a big step for Saudi Arabian women, the country still has a long way to go before men and women are considered equal in society.

It should be acknowledged that although being able to drive does not seem like a huge milestone for most Americans, it is a big step for Saudi Arabian women, who are known for being oppressed in the conservative government.  Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that follows Sharia Law.  Previous arguments for not allowing Saudi Arabian women to drive included it being inappropriate according to Saudi culture, male drivers not knowing how to handle having women driving the cars next to them, or that it would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family.

Currently, women in Saudi Arabia can vote in local elections, play sports and compete in the Olympics, attain a college education, and be appointed to the Consultative Council.  However, the list of things they cannot do far outweighs the list of what they can. Women in Saudi Arabia cannot marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, get a job, or have optional surgery without permission from their male guardians.  They cannot freely associate with members of the opposite sex, or appear in public without wearing a full-length black robe.  They cannot conduct businesses without a male sponsor, retain custody of their children after a divorce, apply for a national identification card or passport without the permission of their male guardian, or eat at restaurants without a separate family section.  Saudi Arabian women cannot receive a fair hearing in court, because “the testimony of one man equals that of two women.”  Lastly, women in Saudi Arabia do not receive an equal inheritance: daughters only receive half of what their brothers receive.  

While women in Saudi Arabia certainly should revel in this victory, they should not stop here.  They should take this opportunity to fight for more rights, such as ending the guardianship laws that allow Saudi Arabian men to limit the actions of their daughters and wives.  Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative society with a government strictly rooted in religious law, but this decree proves that change is possible.  

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The Official Student News of Green Hope High School
Saudi Arabian Driving Decree Is a Big Step…But Not Big Enough