The dress code for women is governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law and is enforced to varying degrees across the country.The majority of women wear an abaya – a long cloak – and a head scarf.
Although women’s rights have been incrementally extended in recent years – for instance, they were allowed to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections for the first time in 2015 – their public behaviour is still severely restricted.
After years of lobbying by women’s rights activists, King Salman has now said that local authorities must be prepared to issue female applicants driving licences within 30 days.
The royal decree came days after a senior cleric was banned from preaching after claiming that women should not drive because their brains were the quarter the size of a man’s when they were distracted by shopping.
A transformation is indeed under way, confirms royal adviser Hanan Al-Ahmadi, ”but we need to be able to create this change gradually and maintain our identity“.
The film, Saudi Arabia Uncovered, contains harrowing footage of beheadings.