Saudi driving ban: Five basic restrictions which still blight the lives of Saudi women

Saudi Arabia: Women may be able to drive but they're a long way from equality

Woman must follow many rules in Saudi Arabia (Stock image)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Women in Saudi Arabia may finally be able to drive, but the journey ahead of them is likely to have several more bumps in the road.

The Saudi regime announced yesterday (September 26) that women will no longer need permission from a male guardian to drive, ending one of the Kingdom's most pernicious and notorious restrictions.

However, while we celebrate the removal of this ridiculous ban, it's important to remember that Saudi women still face a number of basic privations. 

Here are five of the most egregious restrictions yet to be moved by the government in Riyadh. 


In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to "dress for beauty" as they must be modest and cover up. When out in public they have to wear a long coat called an abaya over their outfit and most women wear headscarves. Rules on the colour and decoration of clothes have become less strict recently, but earlier this year there was much controversy over a video of a woman in a miniskirt.

The Saudi woman was filmed walking around in Riyadh. After calls for her to be arrested, police did take her in for questioning but she was later released without charges. Activists praised her bravery.

Male guardians

Many huge life choices cannot be made by Saudi women without the approval of a male guardian. This includes medical treatment, even when the woman's condition is life threatening. Women are also unable to get married without permission from their male guardian and those who want to marry someone from another country need even more approval by the interior ministry.

Permission from male guardians is also needed for getting a passport, travelling and getting a divorce.

Custody of children

If the woman is able to get a divorce after obtaining permission, they are unlikely to win custody cases over any children they may have. Generally they are often allowed to keep custody of sons until they are nine and daughters until they are seven.

A number of Saudi women have spoken out and said that, whilst they may be in a bad marriage, they'd rather stay in it to keep seeing their children rather than get a divorce.

Interaction with men

Women in Saudi Arabia have to ensure they don't spend too much time with men that they are not related to. Many public buildings, like universities and banks, have different areas for each gender, as well as on public transport and recreational areas. If men and women are found to be spending time together unlawfully both will be punished.

However, when going out in public women are supposed to have a male chaperone with them, usually a relative or husband. A Sharia court once ordered a woman who had been gang raped to have more lashes than her attackers, due to being out without a male chaperone.

Purchasing items

Women are not able to read fashion magazines that have not been censored. Often magazines are edited to ensure Western aspects are not represented and religion isn't offended. Barbie dolls are also seen as immoral because of their clothes and are seen as a representation of luxury.

Despite the dolls not officially being on sale, there are certain markets which will sell them.