Beirut (Lebanon): The Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman had been taking decisions which are thought to revolutionise and relax the restrictive environments for women.
The Saudi women will now soon be allowed to attend football matches, drive cars, motor cycles. They will be probably be allowed to join the traffic police.
But, how much of these decisions will affect individuals will depend on several factors such as where they live, their age, their own beliefs and the willingness of their male relatives to give up the control that many consider a religious prerogative.
Usually, most public spaces are designed in such a way that men and women are kept apart.
Even restaurants have separate seatings for men and women if they are not with families. One mall in Riyadh, the capital, has an entire floor for women only, called “the Ladies Kingdom.” In conservative circles, men rarely mix with female relatives who are not their mothers, daughters or sisters.
But, Saudis now have unprecedented exposure to the outer world owing to its large population of youth. About two-thirds of its 22 million citizens are under 30.
The series of reforms were actually started under the reign of King Abdullah, who died in 2015, when women were first allowed to work as sales clerks and in supermarket checkout lines.
The conservative kingdom is gradually changing with the attitude of women too who have turned the abaya the baggy black gown meant to conceal a woman’s form, into a fashion accessory.
In the 1960s, King Faisal faced a backlash from conservatives for introducing public education for girls. He appeased critics by telling them it was not mandatory; in a few years, even the most conservative Saudis were sending their daughters to school.
The radical changes have been accelerated under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and young Saudis have described him as a “hero,” “brave” and a “young champion.”