Friday, Dec 15, 2017 | Last Update : 04:11 AM IST
In most Muslim societies in the world, the place of women is perhaps better than in Saudi Arabia.
Women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be able to drive motor vehicles from June next year. The issue was cleared recently under the leadership of the all-powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has something of a reformist image in certain matters. But it is not clear what compromise he has had to reach with the Kingdom’s Wahhabi clerics who have been in close alliance with the House of Saud in running the country.
In most Muslim societies in the world, the place of women is perhaps better than in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, since that country is important to Muslims worldwide, specially those of the Sunni sect, as it is the custodian of Islam’s holiest places, Mecca and Medina, the example of taking a step forward is likely to serve as a salutary example.
There is some irony in the Saudi case. Women have been treated virtually like cattle, although, in the Kingdom, which is among the world’s richest countries and has among the highest degrees of Internet penetration, more women go to university than men but still constitute only 15 per cent of the workforce.
In other Muslim societies, which are much poorer, women live poor lives but may be socially better off than their Saudi sisters. Even so, if winds of change blow in Saudi Arabia, the mulla and the qazi may receive a setback elsewhere, including India. This is all to the good.