In a promising and entirely overdue new development, women are now permitted to vote and run for public office in Saudi Arabia. This as a positive step in the direction of global gender equality.

We also acknowledge that this is a modest step, as only 1% of Saudi Arabian women have exercised their right to vote. Currently, Saudi Arabia maintains a sharp division between public and private life as well as extreme segregation between men and women. Women in Saudi Arabia are still largely cloistered, infantilized, and confined to the domestic sphere. When women do enter the public sphere they are held to high standards of decency and modesty, required to be accompanied by an adult male chaperone, and strongly discouraged from driving and from interacting with strange men.

However, this dramatic institutional shift in Saudi Arabian politics may indicate that long standing societal barriers between men and women are finally in the process of dissolving.