Saudi Arabia ended its status as the last country on earth to prohibit women from taking to the wheel by royal decree yesterday. Human rights campaigners, globally, praised and welcomed it and Saudi women took to the jam-packed streets in convoys to celebrate.
With dropping oil prices and cuts to government jobs the reasons are quite pragmatic.
Lifting the ban is part of a plan to boost Saudi Arabia's economy and decrease government social provision and in doing so to push more citizens to work within the private sector which would win turn revitalise the country’s economy.
So, one may be forgiven for thinking that ending the ban is one of the most socially-consequential reforms implemented by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But, there is another reason.
When MBS became Crown Prince he embarked on major changes in Saudis domestic and foreign policies, all run through a major PR campaign. In fact, he used women rights as a tool to win the hearts and minds of the young Saudis and his foreign allies.
The lifting of the ban is nothing more than a PR stunt and economic policy and the reason why no women’s rights activists were involved in the process why the 47 women who fought to lift the ban are still languishing in prisons.
Lifting the ban is a positive move but one must understand that it is accompanied by human rights violations.
As South African women we understand the struggles of Saudi women for equality and the right for full citizenship from the perspective of the Apartheid area. As Muslimahs we encounter issues of a similar nature but we’re blessed that we’re allowed to discuss and debate without fear of persecution or rights violations.