Saudi Arabia, the home of the Islamic pilgrimage site Mecca referred by many Muslims as the holy land takes a strict view of the Islamic Sharia law and prevents women from participating in many of the activities women in the western world and even women in other Muslim countries can do as freely almost as second nature. Article 8 requires that the government be premised on equality in accordance with Sharia law, but under Sharia law, women are considered to be legal minors, under the control of their mahram (a male relative whom the female cannot marry such as aunt, sister and grandmother) and even then they need a male guardian for women to partake in day to day life. Even though the current King Abdullah is endeavouring to make leaps and bounds the equality battle shows no sign of letting up.

In order to understand just how bad how the inequality issue in Saudi Arabia it is an imperative to explore the restrictions women face on their day to day life. Potentially one of the most known restrictions is the inability of Saudi women not having the right to drive. Women can drive however, it isn’t illegal technically women can drive, the license that is needed to drive however just isn’t awarded to women and it is illegal to drive without a license. The Saudi Government have attempted to justify as to why women cannot drive. The main one being it would give females the ability to remove their niqab. Another notion is that it would give females ‘freedom’ (a notion which is pretty much a given in the western world) and the opportunity to cheat on their husbands. The most unfathomable how bias the inequality in Saudi Arabia runs deep is through the display of medical procedures and the way in which this works is If a guardian does not give medical treatment the go-ahead, a doctor will not treat a woman. While not supported by law, this is the general practice.

Saudi Arabia is seen as being an emerging economy, I’d take it as far as to say they have emerged one of the world’s biggest petroleum exporters, with a per capita of 25,000 USD, the country also has a human development index, and Saudi has all the utensils in place for the country to thrive. Even though gender asymmetry is universal, ‘gender inequality is however based on socio economic factors’ (Khoury, 1995). ‘Saudi Arabia has the lowest level of inequality in terms of HDI groups.’ (UNDP, 2010).  A further display of how females and males are not par with each other is through the display of female participation in the labour market is only 18.2 percent compared to 75.5 for men’. (UNDP, 2011).

It is evident and apparent that Saudi Arabia are an extremely developed nation, however the question must be posed as to why women in Saudi Arabia are treated like ghosts and what they can do must be dictated to them by their Mahram. But then on the flip side is this just the western ideology which we feel is correct and everyone should adhere to this construct and if they don’t then their construct is wrong.

Abdisalam Sulaiman

http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/SAU.pdf – Saudi Arabia Development Index-[Date accessed 18/12/14]

United Nations Development Programme, 2010, Human Development Report 2010, , Palgrave Macmillan

Khoury N, (1995), Gender and Development in the Arab World, United Nations University Press.


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