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Legs, Skirts and Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia

24 July, 2017
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"A'wra" can be defined as an intimate part of the body that must be covered. This is something conservative Arabs believe women should be mindful of when in public spaces, and Saudi Arabia comes on top of the list for its binding rulebook on covering up.

Saudi women, however, have turned to Twitter to show that they’ve had enough. In a bold move, Saudi woman launched a new campaign using a hashtag that translates to "the campaign to photograph legs".

Understandably, the campaign stirred controversy on social media. One tweet found a man acknowledging that Saudi women should have access to the same rights that women do all over the world, but that shouldn’t be obtained through “prostitution”.

The law in the kingdom bars women from a variety of everyday tasks, including driving. Women are also not allowed to operate on their own in society unless they have the consent of a male guardian. For example, adult women need to have the permission of a male guardian to work or travel.

Another tweet in response to the hashtag challenged women to "go out with their bare legs instead of taking photographs in hiding".

While this is likely a desire for many women, it remains practically impossible.

Just last week, a Saudi woman was arrested after a video of her went viral that depicted her without a headscarf and wearing a mini skirt with a top that shows her midriff.

The woman was arrested by Riyadh police for wearing “suggestive clothing”, state television station al-Ekhbariya reported Tuesday. After an international outcry, she was released without charges, Saudi authorities said on Wednesday.

Some Saudi Twitter users took to the social media platform to launch an Arabic hashtag that translates to “We demand a trial for the model Khulood”, protesting that she had not been punished for her "indecency". 

To rebutt these calls, some Saudis took to Twitter to highlight society's hypocritical attitutdes toward women. Saudi activist Fatima al-Issa tweeted: "If she were a foreigner, they would sing about the beauty of her waist and the enchantment of her eyes. But because she is Saudi they are calling for her arrest."

A poll conducted in 2014 found that 63% of Saudis believed that women should wear a niqab, which covers all of the face except for the eyes, and just 3% thought that women who were not covering their hair were dressed appropriately.

Nevertheless, a chirp on Twitter voiced that "there is a rebellion being slowly cooked".

Tags Saudi Arabia womens rights Saudi women Gender equality Twitter