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12 Things Women In Saudi Arabia Cannot Do

saudi-women-in-burkas image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Reportedly, no less than 18 women in Saudi Arabia were elected to municipal councils in ballots held on December 12, 2015. It’s the first time women were allowed to stand for office or vote in the country’s history. Although the vote is a landmark for the ultra-conservative kingdom, its women’s daily lives remain severely restricted. Here are 12 things women in Saudi Arabia are still unable to do!

1. Go anywhere without a male chaperone

Rooted in the thought “giving movement freedom to women would make them vulnerable to sins”, women’s all errands, including shopping trips and visits to the doctor, need to be accompanied by a male guardian, often relative. There’s one extreme case that a teenage girl who had been gang-raped was given harsher punishment than the rapists because she was not with a chaperone when it occurred.

2. Drive a car

Though there’s no official law banning women from driving, the deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, arguing female drivers “undermine social values.” In 2011, a group of Saudi women launched the “Women2Drive” campaign, encouraging women to drive a car, but they are only allowed to drive their children to school or a family member to the hospital.

3. Wear clothes or makeup that “show off their beauty”

Strictly governed by the Islamic law, the majority of Saudi women were forced to wear an abaya – a long black cloak – and a black head scarf. If they failed to cover the face, they would probably be harassed for exposing too much flesh or wearing too much makeup, though the face does not necessarily need to be covered. The Shoura Council, king’s advisory body, ruled that women should wear “modest” clothes that do not “show off their beauty.”

4. Interact with men

Saudi women are restricted in the amount of time spent with men they are unrelated to. The majority of the public buildings including offices, banks, universities and most of the public transportation, parks and beaches are segregated for men and women. Unlawful mixing will lead to criminal charges against both parties, but women typically face harsher punishment.

5. Go for a swim

A Reuters correspondent once tried to use the gym and pool at an upmarket Riyadh hotel. And she such described her experience: “As a woman, I wasn’t even allowed to look at them (‘there are men in swimsuits there,’ a hotel staffer told me with horror) – let alone use them.”

6. Compete freely in sports

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting an Olympic Games without women because in their belief women cannot compete in sports. When Saudi female athletes attended the London games for the first time, hard-line clerics denounced them as “prostitutes”. Meanwhile, they had to be accompanied by a male guardian and wear a “Sharia-compliant” sports kit covering their hair.

7. Try on clothes when shopping

Maureen Dowd, a Vanity Fair writer, once said in “A Girl’s Guide to Saudi Arabia”: “The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle.”

8. Entering a cemetery

9. Reading an uncensored fashion magazine

10. Buying a Barbie doll

11. Working in a lingerie shop

Though some stores have recently begun hiring female employees, the majority are still staffed by men.

12. Open a bank account without her husband’s permission

Luckily, things in Saudi Arabia now are slowly starting to modernise, and “women are highly educated and qualified”, says Rothna Begum from Human Right Watch, “They don’t want to be left in the dark.”

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Henry Sapiecha