In much of the Western World, the woman takes a lot for granted. Sure, we suffer the occasional catcall by a man on the street. Or a bit of old-fashioned chauvinism when an older colleague won’t take us seriously in the boardroom. However, women’s life in Saudi Arabia is much more different than the rest of the western world. In this article, we will discuss eleven prohibitions for women in Saudi Arabia that are hard to believe.
In the modern world, women are generally free to do what they want and not suffer too many consequences. But for the Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia, things are much different. When most of us thrilled by so many inspirational women leaders around the world; here everyday women in Saudi Arabia need to follow so many restrictions that violate women’s rights. Let’s look at some of them.
Prohibitions For Women in Saudi Arabia:
1. Must Fully Clothed and Covered in Public
The most common women’s fashion in Saudi Arabia that they must be fully clothed and covered when out in public. The Mutaween, or religious police, will impose strict discipline if this rule is broken.
Most women wear a long cloak, or abaya and a headscarf in Saudi Arabia. It is preferred that all parts of the body be covered except for the eyes and hands. But in some areas, Muslim women will show their full face, much to the annoyance of many hardliners.
In some stricter areas, they will wear all black and even have their eyes shielded by a thin black veil (so they can see!). The reason for all of this cover-up is not to attract the attention of men.
This interesting taboos/prohibition for women in Saudi Arabia are hard to believe for people from the Western world. Hopefully, it will change one day.
2. Leave the Make-Up at Home
Women in Saudi Arabia cannot wear clothes or makeup that enhances their beauty when out in public. Even though their eyes may be uncovered, you will not find a trace of makeup on them.
It is considered very bad form and any woman who crosses this line may be on the receiving end of unwanted attention, including the police. That said, many women will wear all the make-up they want in their own homes.
3. Higher Education? Not for Me!
They can get a university education, but they won’t need it. It is true that women’s education in Saudi Arabia is not banned from higher education but women go to only segregated schools.
And if the professor is a man? They are required to not be in the same room but view the lecture through a video feed.
Indeed, many Saudi women have degrees in the sciences, journalism, and history. But it will do little good to them in the real world should they stay in the country. Which brings us to our next point.
4. I’ll Stay at Home, Thanks
Women’s working rights in Saudi Arabia are not equal like the rest of the western world. Because, women in Saudi Arabia aren’t expected to have a job. In fact, women make up only about five percent of the workforce. They also work separately from men.
But since most women in the country rely so heavily on men for the most basic things, they don’t need to work. If the woman isn’t married, she is still living with her family. Which means a father, uncle or older brother is paying the bills.
5. Inheritance is Out of Reach
Saudi women cannot receive the same inheritance as men. As lesser members of society, a woman cannot inherit a departed loved one’s savings without the majority of the money going to the head of the household first, which is the man.
Women do receive a small portion, but since the man runs the house, takes charge of the family affairs and pays all of the bills, the male next of kin receives the lion’s share.
6. Not Looking for Love
Marriages are often arranged, and the vast majority of Saudi women do not marry for love. Rarely does a woman choose whom she marries and if she does, she must have consent.
Furthermore, many married couples-to-be have not laid eyes on each other before the wedding. Often the mother of the groom will go to visit the woman, and if she likes her, will ask the family for permission to marry her son.
7. Don’t Worry About Money
Women cannot open a bank account by themselves in Saudi Arabia because of their guardianship laws. They need to have a man present. It is just one of the ‘major decisions’ in life that Saudi women are not trusted to handle by themselves.
8. Social Mixing Doesn’t Happen
Women’s life in Saudi Arabia is hard when we think of social life. Women cannot interact with other men in public. When a Saudi woman is out and about, they are strictly prohibited from interacting with any man who is not family. This means there are segregated public spaces and separate entrances into restaurants and shops for both sexes.
This is why you will often see a group of Saudi women together or a woman with her man. However, when a Muslim woman is out with her family, there are designated spaces for that as well.
9. Leave the Swimsuit at Home
Women in Saudi Arabia cannot go for a dip. You will not see any woman at a public pool or beach. Swimming is restricted to female-only gyms and spas. It is another example of diverting any chance of attracting the attention of the men.
10. Sports are for Men Only
According to the Human Rights Watch; Saudi women cannot compete in sports. Only in 2012 have a few Saudi women taken part in the Olympics. And even then, they had to be accompanied by a man. But other than that, you will not see any females being allowed to compete in any sport.
11. High Clothing Returns in Saudi Arabia?
Women cannot try on clothes when shopping. The prospect of a woman being naked in public is very threatening to most Saudi men. Even when the woman is behind closed doors in a dressing room! Apparently, the mere idea of a woman undressing in the next room is enough to cause a stir.
All of this taken into account, there is change afoot. With the rise of tourism and a need to bring travelers and investors into the country, these practices will surely, (albeit slowly) fall away, one by one. Facilities will be updated to ‘international standards,’ allowing women’s life in Saudi Arabia to catch up with the rest of the world.