Reforms in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the largest and richest nation in the Middle East. Buoyed by immense resources of natural crude oil and gas, it has developed modern infrastructure and has a fast-developing economy. However, Saudi Arabia is a religiously conservative nation with strict Islamic law adhered to in the nation.

What happens?

  • Saudi Arabia has been criticized internationally over the lack of dignified rights the women endure in the nation.
  • NGOs and women rights activists allege that women in Saudi Arabia are treated as second-class citizens.
  • Several demeaning rules which require them to get the consent of a male guardian for every significant decision are applied to them.
  • These included a ban on driving, traveling alone, eating out and dressing.

What has changed?

  • The rapid and sustained fall in the price of oil hit the Saudi Economy hard which relies heavily on its oil wealth to keep the cradle to the grave welfare state running.
  • This economic hiccup forced the Saudis to open up their economy for other ventures.
  • However, women who comprised over half of the trained workforce could not work under such restrictive conditions and most global MNCs had strict gender parity laws in place.

What is changing?

  • The changing economic scenario has forced the Saudis to initiate several changes and give increased rights to their women.
  • In 2017, Saudi King Salman had ordered that women are to be allowed access to government services such as education and healthcare and they no longer need permission for doing the same.
  • In 2018, Saudi King Salman issued another decree which lifted the world’s only ban on women driving and allowed women drivers on the Saudi roads.
  • In the latest set of reforms, the Saudi King has issued a number of royal decrees which allow that a Saudi passport can be issued to any Saudi citizen who wants it and no permission is required for any person above the age of 21 for them to travel.
  • By these decrees, the nation of Saudi Arabia has allowed full freedom to all adult women to travel freely without permission and also has granted them more control over family matters.

These reforms come at a time the Saudi system is under heavy scrutiny over its biased human rights behavior.

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