Under Sharia law, generally enforced by the government, the courts will punish a rapist with anything from flogging to execution. As there is no penal code in Saudi Arabia, there is no written law which specifically criminalizes rape or prescribes its punishment. The rape victim is often punished as well, if she had first entered the rapist’s company in violation of purdah. There is no prohibition against spousal or statutory rape.
In 2009, the Saudi Gazette reported that a 23-year-old unmarried woman was sentenced to one year in prison and 100 lashes for adultery. She had been gang-raped, become pregnant, and tried unsuccessfully to abort the fetus. The flogging was postponed until after the delivery.
Depending on the guardian, women may need their guardian’s permission for:
marriage and divorce;
travel, if under 45;
opening a bank account;
elective surgery, particularly when sexual in nature.
A hijab is a traditional Islamic norm whereby women are required “to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men)” and dress in a modest manner. Saudi Arabia is different from many Islamic societies in the extent of the covering that it considers Islamically correct hijab (everything except the hands and eyes) and the fact that covering is enforced by Mutaween or religious police.
Sexual segregation which keeps wives, sisters and daughters from contact with stranger men, follows from the extreme concern for female purity and family honour. Social events are largely predicated on the separation of men and women; the mixing of non-kin men and women at parties or the like is extremely rare and limited to some of the modernist Western-educated families. Women who are seen socializing with a man who is not a relative, can be harassed by the mutaween, even charged with committing adultery, fornication or prostitution.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving.