Saudi Arabia is still one of the world’s most gender segregated nations, but finally that is beginning to change. King Salman has just issued a new law that allows women to benefit from government services, such as education and healthcare, without needing consent from a male guardian.
Male guardianship in Saudi Arabia has existed for thousands of years. Women in Saudi Arabia live under constant supervision, requiring a male guardian’s permission to be educated, see doctors, get married, make legal complaints, or travel.
Political activist Aziza Al-Yousef was arrested for driving by herself in 2013. Until now, these laws have been pretty immovable, but this new law has now opened the door to change. While it won’t completely abolish the guardianship system, it is a major step toward female emancipation. This law now allows women to study, access hospital treatments as they need to, work in the private and public sector, and even represent them in court.
This change is a result of years of protests held by Saudi feminists. Last year, 2,500 women lobbied at the King’s office itself to demand change, and 14,000 others signed a petition to end male guardianship. In December of 2015, women were allowed to vote in municipal elections for the first time.
It’s steps like these that will eventually lead to emancipation for women in Saudi Arabia. At last, things are beginning to change. Well fought, ladies.