mid day editorial: Cheers and jeers for gears in Saudi Arabia

Jun 25, 2018, 07:30 IST | mid-day correspondent

In a landmark moment, women drove themselves legally through the ultra-conservative kingdom's roads

mid day editorial: Cheers and jeers for gears in Saudi Arabia

On Sunday, it was cheers for gears as Saudi Arabia ended the world's only ban on women drivers. In a landmark moment, women drove themselves legally through the ultra-conservative kingdom's roads.

That it has taken nearly 28 years of activism for this to come about and the fact that at least six women are still in jail for defying the ban earlier, are sobering thoughts amidst the celebrations. They are also an indicator of the challenges women face in this kingdom and elsewhere, the huge price that has been paid by those who dare to go against the grain. Generations that take rights for granted, like some young Saudi women might while getting behind the wheel right now, must not forget the history and the long and brave battles their predecessors fought simply so they could get into their cars and drive.

Despite the banishment of the driving ban, there is still a thick line separating Saudi Arabia and the world when it comes to gender equality. If reforms and new vision are the way to go for the kingdom, it is time to do away with the archaic restrictive guardianship laws that govern women's lives there. When a woman's father is deceased or absent, her husband, a male relative, brother, and at times even a son, must give his approval on many aspects of her life.

If the crown prince is serious about gender equality, then this needs to go. Similarly, every country needs to reassess any kind of inequality in their law and work on reforms in this atmosphere. In countries where, on paper, there is equality but is often only cosmetic, there has to be real effort for change from within. The Saudi driving watershed moment has arrived. It should set minds across the world working on how to end any gender discrimination in their countries too.

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