is a research fellow at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. Her other publications include “Reforming the religious discourse in Saudi Arabia (2001-2010)” in the Routledge Handbook of Political Islam
Triangle of change: the situation of women in Saudi Arabia
Eman Alhussein, 14 July 2014
The current situation of Saudi women is influenced by three dominant and interlocking factors – the legal, the social and the economic. Because Saudi law is uncodified, powerful clergy are opposed to codification and make important legal judgments shaped and moulded by social norms, customs and conventions, with often-detrimental effects on women’s legal and economic status. The “exclusiveness” pretext – the perception of the “unique” and “exclusive” nature of Saudi culture – has been used to integrate and maintain socially conservative norms and traditions in Saudi society that cannot be easily refuted or altered. Royal decrees have been a primary vehicle for changing and challenging conservative norms and customs – allowing women greater access to job opportunities and public office and increased visibility in the public sphere. Economic pressures and factors have also contributed. The current analysis will explain the complex and dynamic interactions between the social, legal and economic factors influencing Saudi women’s situation today in light of recent developments in the country.