Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest nations in the Arab world and one of the world’s largest oil producers. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by Abdul Aziz bin Saud and is today ruled by the Al Saud dynasty. The royal family controls most of the country’s prominent political posts, and political parties are banned. The first municipal elections were held in 2005, but no national elections have yet taken place.

In response to minor protests in the beginning of 2011, the late King Abdullah promised a number of benefits to Saudi citizens. 

On December 12 2015, Saudi women voted and ran in elections for the first time in the country’s history. At least 17 women were elected to public office, despite restrictions making it hard on women who wanted to run for office and vote. 

Women are not treated as equal members of society, and many laws discriminate against them. In 2008, the Saudi Human Rights Commission established a women’s branch to investigate cases of human rights violations against women and children, though it has not consistently carried out any serious investigations or brought cases against violators.

Educational and economic rights for Saudi women have improved  somewhat in recent years, with more than half of the country’s university students now female, though they do not enjoy equal access to classes and facilities and still only hold very limited chances of employment upon termination of studies.

Saudi women continued to agitate for the right to drive in 2014. In December the same year, Loujain Hathloul and Maysaa Alamoudi were arrested at the border with the United Arab Emirates for driving.

Their case was referred to the Specialized Criminal Court, which deals primarily with cases related to state security and terrorism.

 

Facts 

   

Total population (2014 est)

29,369,000 

Female population (2014 est)

12,746,146

Total 0-14 years (female)

3,661,194

Total 15-64 years (female)

8,545,781

Total 65 years and over (female)

439,766
   

Life expectancy at birth (women)

78 years

Fertility rate

2.7 children/woman

Total literacy rate

99.34%

Total literacy rate among females (2015 est)

91.9 % 

School life expectancy ( primary to tertiary education, 2013)

17 years

Female enrolment at higher education*

37% 

*Higher education is the degree after achieving the high-school diploma