Saudi Arabia drew international plaudits last year when it lifted a longstanding ban on women driving.
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These restrictions were highlighted in early January, when a young Saudi woman fleeing her family barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok saying she feared imprisonment if she was sent back home.
“This is something that affects every Saudi woman and girl, from birth to death. They are essentially treated like minors,” the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy told the BBC.
Saudi Arabia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2000 and has said gender equality is guaranteed in accordance with the provisions of Sharia, or Islamic law.
The conservative Gulf kingdom has also reversed a ban on sports for women and girls in public schools, and allowed women to watch football matches in stadiums.
However, UN experts expressed concern in February 2018 at the country’s failure to adopt a specific law prohibiting discrimination against women, as well as the absence of a legal definition of discrimination against women.
The male guardianship system, the experts noted, was “the key obstacle to women’s participation in society and economy”.
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