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Why Saudi Arabia Is the Next South Africa

A Saudi woman walks in the desert, in Thumama, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 7, 2008
A Saudi woman walks in the desert, in Thumama, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 7, 2008Photograph by Hassan Ammar/AP Images

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel basks in the glow of reelection and Hillary Clinton ponders another run for the presidency in 2016, it’s worth remembering how far much of the rest of the world is from gender equity. Last week, a respected cleric in Saudi Arabia responded to a countrywide petition effort by women demanding the right to drive a car by suggesting that getting behind the wheel could damage their ovaries.

The good news is that such examples of misogyny are becoming a little less common—especially in terms of legal discrimination. There’s hope that the time is not far off when the obscene anachronism that is Saudi Arabia’s policy toward women evokes the same international disgust—and international response—that led to global shaming and sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime.