Very much like segregation, women are not allowed to communicate with a male stranger, no matter where the setting is. It’s for these reasons that Universities, banks, transportation, and beaches are often segregated for both men and women, and anyone found breaching such rules is usually susceptible to a harsh prison sentence or public lashing. However, in most previous cases, the woman is generally treated more harshly.
3. Compete freely in sports
When Saudi women were first allowed to compete in the Olympic Games in 2012, the moral uproar it caused in their homeland led many to label the women “prostitutes” due to their beliefs that woman should not play any kind if sport. As such, those who were brave enough to compete and go against the verbose rants were forced to have a male guardian accompanying them as well as wear a “Sharia-compliant” sports kit that covered their hair.
4. Enter a cemetery
Even if your loved ones have perished, it is unlikely, such is the social norm in Saudia Arabia, that you will be allowed to visit their graves. At least, that’s what Vanity Fair writer Maureen Dowd discovered when she asked if she could visit Eve’s (of bible fame) supposed grave for her piece, “A Girls’ Guide to Saudi Arabia.” “Women are not allowed to go into cemeteries,” her tour guide told her.
5. Try on clothes in a changing room
Continuing with Dowd’s piece, the journalist also noted her guide’s shock when asked if she could try a piece of clothing on. Describing his reaction, and that of many other men, she wrote, “The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle.”
However, it could have been a lot worse for Dowd. Indeed, if she had come to the country pre-2012 and wanted to visit a lingerie shop, her experience would have been highly uncomfortable. The reason? Only men could be employed. Thankfully, in 2012, King Abdullah finally put an end to the red faces of women and ruled that men working in a place selling intimate female garments should not be allowed.
6. Open a bank account without a male guardian
Though Saudi Arabia has seen a welcome increase in women starting their own businesses and even running in local elections, they continue to be thwarted in their rights for complete freedom due to men still being needed for even the simplest of tasks, such as opening a bank account.
7. Walk outside uncovered
While men can pretty much wear whatever they want in a country that regularly reaches searing temperatures of 40 degrees+, women are forbidden from dressing in anything other than a conservative, full body-length robe. In fact, only their eyes and hands are allowed to show and any woman showing more flesh than permitted can expect to be dealt with by the strict religious police, who are known as the “Mutaween”.
Although the freedom to experiment in fashion is not off-limits for women. Robes come in a variety of different patterns and colours, and some even have cartoon characters stitched onto the back.
8. Wear clothes or makeup highlighting their beauty
Following a strict interpretation of Islamic law, women are seen as the object of lust and desire and are only safe when in the confines of their husbands home. What’s more, women are expected not to flaunt any signs of beauty in public, and even the faintest of mascara or eye shadow can result in a stern telling off from the Mutaween. Even television presenters, according to The Economist, are now required to dress conservatively and wear the hijab after one female presenter caused outraged when she presented the news without one.
9. Go anywhere without a male chaperone
Saudi women, no matter where they go, always need to be accompanied by a male companion, known as a ‘Mahram.’ Generally a relative- if not their husband- the Mahram accompanies the woman on any outside trips, whether that be to the mall or just a visit to a doctor. But though many argue that the merits and safety a Mahram offers outweigh the dangers of women being outside alone- a case which was argued when a lone woman was gang-raped by a bunch of male thugs- the outcome of the trial, resulted in the woman receiving more lashes than her attackers simply because she admitted to being without a male guardian.
10. Go for a swim
Due to the strict dress codes woman must follow, cooling down for a swim is often impossible unless you happen to have one in your house. Reporting on the issue, Reuters journalist Arlene Getz recited her experience when swimming in a communal pool located in her Riyadh hotel. “As a woman, I wasn’t even allowed to look at them (‘there are men in swimsuits there,’ a hotel staffer told me with horror) — let alone use them,” she said.