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Lulwa, 27, bridles at a deep-seated sexism in Saudi society that she says reduces women to their reproductive functions, even among some members of her liberal circle in which the genders mix and alcohol is sometimes served at parties.“You were born to give birth — that’s your mission in life,” she says.

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But the couple was, in fact, being watched by the religious police. She says it later emerged that he had been having affairs with a number of women and drinking regularly.

“They wanted him, but they used me to get to him,” she says.

Whole families can be disgraced if one member — particularly a female — is seen to have stepped outside of society’s strict social norms.

Afterward, Fadila decided to focus on academics, where she has excelled.

Fadila, 29, an accountant, has been looking for love in all the wrong places since she was a teenager.

Early on, her beguiling smile had boys asking for her telephone number.

“They said, ‘If you sign, we’ll take you home and not tell your parents.’ Instead they took me to jail.” Her mother and brother got her released the next day, and the episode has been kept secret from everybody else except her best friend.

Fadila is lucky — experiences like hers have cost other women their lives.

Waleed is an outlier in Saudi Arabia, where many marriages are still set up by families and where couples sometimes don’t meet in person before getting engaged.

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