Enclosures, social systems, and the law: The female experience in a male dominated society

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donna-velo-egittoWomen in Saudi Arabia were recently granted the right to vote and run in the national and local elections in 2015. Many saw this as a step towards democratisation and a step towards women’s equality. In reality, women remain oppressed with disproportionate amount of public space to exercise their new rights while still fighting the enclosures and social systems that are rooted in gender inequality.

Changing one aspect of a social system is not enough to change the whole system. Giving women the right to run for office and vote in elections does very little for furthering gender equality when women are unable to attend government municipal meetings even when holding office. These changes are very superficial and only give the illusion of access to a wider social system when women are still confined to a space that is controlled by men and guardians.

Not only are women denied political space to participate in, they are also denied public space without permission from a male figure. You can watch the documentary by Mona El-Naggar from the New York Times to see how women are affected by the new election laws or read some tweets from women in Saudi Arabia expressing their experiences, good and bad, about life under guardianship.

No one can deny the progress that many societies are experiencing when it comes towards gender equality. As we see laws becoming more inclusive of female involvement and equality, we also need to see change happening on a cultural level. The attitude towards women is vital to achieving meaningful progress.

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