Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Suspected gas cylinder blast kills 42 on Zimbabwe bus

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Theresa May soldiers on; Israel political turmoil; France fuel protests

Read more

FOCUS

'New right', old ideas? A closer look at the far right in Germany

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Art Deco: France's love affair with the Roaring Twenties

Read more

#THE 51%

India's vanishing women workers

Read more

REPORTERS

Reporters: An outside view of France's Fifth Republic

Read more

#TECH 24

Audrey Tang: A hacker-turned-minister in Taiwan

Read more

ENCORE!

The Land of the Rising Sun comes to La République

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

Concerts Without Borders: Making classical music accessible

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2017-06-30

Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

In Saudi Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens. They cannot drive or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian: a brother, father, cousin or even a son. But faced with the fall in oil prices and the aspirations of a young generation hooked on social media, the authorities are gradually relaxing the rules. FRANCE 24’s team reports from the kingdom.

In December 2015, amid much publicity, Saudi Arabia held historic elections for municipal councils. For the first time, women had the right to vote and to run for office. Although this was a clear step forward, it remained symbolic as only 21 women were elected to a total of more than 2,000 seats. Since then, things are not necessarily going smoothly for these women in the town halls where they are supposed to have a voice.

In reality, the change is mainly driven by the Saudi authorities’ need to diversify the economy, which is completely dependent on oil revenues. Today, Saudi women are obtaining access to areas that were previously forbidden to them. Some are now lawyers, pharmacists or even appointed to the head of the stock exchange or a large bank.

Another factor that explains this feminine revolution is the demographic reality of the kingdom. Currently, 70 percent of Saudis are under 30 years of age. They are seeking room to breathe in a society suffocated by tradition and religion. Faced with these aspirations, the authorities have decided to relax certain rules and promote sports and entertainment for women. They have also ordered the infamous religious police to slightly loosen their grip on society. Young people are now able to take some liberties with traditional outfits and customs.

For the few activists who continue to fight for true female emancipation, these changes are largely cosmetic. They say the country needs drastic measures, including the end of the male guardianship system and the ban on women driving. Although these subjects appear ultra-sensitive, even some figures close to power admit the changes are necessary. But the road to equality for Saudi women is still long and full of pitfalls.
 

By Georges YAZBECK , Marc PERELMAN

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2018-11-16 Reporters

Reporters: An outside view of France's Fifth Republic

In a full-length documentary, FRANCE 24 takes a fresh look at France's Fifth Republic, the current political system founded in 1958. Six decades on, how is the country perceived...

Read more

2018-11-09 Reporters

Reporters: How the Salonica Front led to victory in WWI

A century ago, towards the end of World War I, Allied soldiers were engaged in fighting on the Salonica Front, near the Greek city now known as Thessaloniki. Those key battles,...

Read more

2018-11-02 Reporters

Reporters: Kentucky, the heart of Trump's America

On November 6, Americans will head to the polls for crucial midterm elections, with control of Congress at stake. This year’s vote has become essentially a referendum for or...

Read more

2018-10-26 Reporters

Reporters: Chile’s Mapuche people fighting for their land

In southern Chile, a long-running conflict pitting the indigenous Mapuche people against security forces has taken a radical turn. Arson attacks, threats and armed clashes have...

Read more

2018-10-19 Reporters

Reporters: Brexit, a sea of uncertainty for fishermen

Ninety-six percent of British fishermen voted for Brexit, saying they wanted to "get their waters back" and break away from the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy, which...

Read more