Is any change good or bad? Or is it even good enough? The answers to these differ based on one’s perspective and their individual expectations. Something which might be termed as pathbreaking in one region might be the norm in the rest of the world. This is exactly what happened in Saudi Arabia with the lifting of the ban on women drivers. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the First Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, had set Sunday the 24th of June as the day on which the one of its kind ban on women driving in the country would be lifted. Women in Saudi Arabia took to the streets at midnight and celebrated the historic reform expected to usher in a new era of social mobility in Saudi Arabia. The lifting of the ban is part of the Saudi Prince’s approach towards making the whole country modernised and more inclusive for the people around the globe. Mohammaad bin Salman had previously also allowed public concerts by a female singer and allowing women into sports stadiums along with restricting the powers of the religious police in Saudi Arabia. A good move by Crown Prince Salman and a great start for his Saudi 2030 vision which includes economic, social and religious reforms.
The ban’s removal is not without contradictions though, as there are still many Saudi rights activists languishing in prison since last month when they were picked up for demanding the right for women to drive. The other rights which still elude females are the right to work, to travel alone and the right to marriage. The strictest form of Wahhabi Islam which is followed in Saudi Arabia even bans the mixing of opposite sexes in public events. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also raised this issue by saying, “While we welcome the fact that women can finally get behind the wheel, we should not forget that many people are still behind bars for their work in fighting for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”
The numerous curbs on women in Saudi Arabia are worrisome considering it is the birthplace of the religion which has the second largest followers around the globe. Muslims beings victimised in the whole world where they are a minority is the favourite talking point of pseudo-liberals. These figures have somehow managed to not crop up whenever the topic of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries undermining rights of the women and treating them as second-class citizens comes up. Indian governments’ decision to remove Triple Talaq was challenged and presented as an anti-Muslim and anti-minority move in the country. Much hue and cry was raised for repealing a draconian clause which places Muslim women on a lower pedestal than the men. The directive to abolish Triple Talaq was contested and questioned just because PM Modi led BJP was in power; so is the case with the proposal for a Uniform Civil Code which is much needed in our country.
Female drivers were issued driving licenses earlier this month in Saudi Arabia and the sight of them driving around with joy on the streets for the first time is a symbol of what oppression really means. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has given the gift of freedom to the female population of Saudi, while also giving us a glimpse into the real struggles and problems faced by the people around the globe.