The new Saudi ambassador to the United States has spoken out about women’s rights in the country for the first time since taking up his new role.
Prince Khaled bin Salman, who assumed his new position in April told the Washington Post that women were key to the future of Saudi Arabia. “Our leadership realizes that women are important to our future and to moving our economy forward,” he said. “We can’t move forward without half of our population.”
The prince is the younger brother of Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam who also began his new role earlier this year. The promotion of the younger generation of Saudi princes to senior positions have signaled the possibility of some of the Kingdom’s conservative policies being watered down in the near future - especially with regards to women’s rights.
Prince Khaled bin Salman
Saudi women live under some of the most discriminatory laws in world and have been fighting to gain basic equality with men for years. All women are forced to have a male guardian throughout their lives and are not allowed to travel abroad, obtain a passport or get married (amongst a slew of public and personal decisions) without their permission.
Saudi Arabia is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, which severely restricts their freedom of movement.
Recent amendments to discriminatory policies have raised hope for women’s rights in the country. Women are now allowed to run and vote in municipal elections and they must also verbally consent to being married for any union to be considered legal.
Male guardians are also no longer required to provide consent if women need government services such as work permits, medical services and educational services. Many hope that this signals the beginning of the end for the male guardianship law, although there has been no indication that this is the long-term plan.
Nevertheless, Prince Khaled bin Salman’s comments indicate that the more young people have a say in the Kingdom’s future, the more liberal this future will be.
“Every country moves forward, and we are,” he told the Post. “The last two years have been a time of big change in our country. Human rights have been moving forward, women’s rights have been moving forward. Saudi youth have been given a chance to play a part in our future.”