It took a matter of seconds for Theresa May’s Saudi Arabia visit to make headlines, when the British Prime Minister exited her plane with one notable absence: she wasn’t wearing a headscarf.
In the strict Muslim country, in which practicing any religion other than Islam is punishable by law, a headscarf is compulsory for all women, and official Foreign Office guidelines advise all female visitors wear one, reports The Telegraph.
May arrived in a loosely tailored navy pantsuit (as per official guidelines for loose, long clothing that covers wrists and ankles) to greet government officials.
She’s not the first woman politician to take a stand against Saudi Arabia’s ultra-strict regime: former FLOTUS Michelle Obama went without on her 2015 visit, as did former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Speaking in Jordan ahead of her Saudi Arabia visit, the Prime Minister said she hoped to show women in the country “what women can achieve,” reports The Independent.
“It’s important for me as a woman leader and as leader of the government of the United Kingdom to maintain the relationships that are important to us as a country, for our security, and our trade for the future,” she said.
“But I hope also that people see me as a woman leader, will see what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions.”
Women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and can’t get jobs or travel without male permission.