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Many conservative Saudi women do not support loosening traditional gender roles and restrictions, on the grounds that Saudi Arabia is the closest thing to an "ideal and pure Islamic nation," and under threat from "imported Western values".Gender roles in Saudi society come from local culture and interpretations of Sharia (Islamic law).

The 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent Grand Mosque Seizure in Saudi Arabia caused the government to implement stricter enforcement of sharia.

It opened the country's first co-educational university, appointed the first female cabinet member, and passed laws against domestic violence.

Women did not gain the right to vote in 2005, but the king supported a woman's right to drive and vote.

The 2013 Global Gender Gap Report ranked several Muslim nations, such as Kyrgyzstan, Gambia, and Indonesia significantly higher than Saudi Arabia for women's equality.

However it moved up four places from the last report due to an increase in the percentage of women in parliament (from 0% to 20%), (based on the introduction of a new quota for women in parliament) and had the biggest overall score improvement relative to 2006 of any country in the Middle East.

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