Women set to gain greater freedom in Iran and Saudi Arabia

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are moving towards relaxing some of the strict laws on women’s freedom, which are prevalent throughout much of the Middle East

Two Middle East countries are taking steps to grant more freedom to women.

Iran, a country where women have been banned from entering sporting arenas and stadiums because of the supposedly risqué uniforms the players wear, will allow women to watch an upcoming volleyball match on 19 June. While the number of women allowed in the stadium will be limited to around 500, this is a first for the country.

“I guess a limited number of women, mainly families of national team players, will watch the volleyball game,” said Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs. “If it practically happens a few times, the concerns [raised by Islamic hard-liners] will be completely removed and it will be proven that allowing women to watch men’s sports matches is not problematic,” Molaverdi added.

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Saudi Arabia is possibly joining Iran in modernising its traditional practices by considering altering laws to allow more freedom to women as they travel.

Current laws require women younger than 45 to provide proof that they have the approval of their male guardian to travel and that they are accompanied by a male at all times. The new law would allow for women to travel without prior approval within Saudi Arabia and would be more on par with “advanced countries,” said Sulaiman Al-Yahya, director of Saudi Arabia’s passports department.

Although the reformation of travel restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia seem well intentioned, Twitter users are criticizing Saudi officials, using #TravelControlsOnSaudiWomen. The main points of the criticism are that officials will simply change their methods of control and that women will still need a male chaperone.

First published by RYOT.