Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive in historic decision

Emmett Rice
September 28, 2017

Right now, only men can get a driver's license in Saudi Arabia and if a woman is seen behind the wheel in a public place, police officers may arrest her or issue a hefty fine.

A Saudi cleric, Saad al-Hijr, was recently banned from preaching, after saying that women shouldn't drive because their brains shrink to a quarter of the size of a man's when they go shopping.

The protesting women of the Kingdom found an unexpected and powerful supporter in the youthful crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman who has an expansive plan to change Saudi society and to help in the loosening the sharia social restrictions.

As well as the obvious opportunities in the kingdom for all-woman driving instruction businesses to comply with the country's strict culture of gender segregation, extending the right to drive among women could create opportunities for other sectors. "Saudi Arabia has finally relented and chose to permit women to drive", rights watchdog Amnesty International said. The new law means that women are allowed to apply for a license without having to seek approval from a male guardian, despite laws which grant men power over their female relatives.

He's apparently been one who has been pushing reform within the country. A committee has been formed to implement the ruling and it will present recommendations within 30 days. 10 years later King Salman finally gave assent to women drivers in a historic move on 26 September, 2017.

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The move was welcomed by the U.S. State department. In Riyadh, some Saudi women have started showing their faces, a change in the conservative capital where most show only their eyes - if that. "This was the one file and issue which Saudi women have fought not just years, but decades for", according to the BBC.

Now women are legally subject to a male guardian, who must give approval to basic decisions they make in fields including education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.

Among the opposition and ill intent, it is a win regardless for the women of Saudi Arabia. "We women are now taken into consideration".

Interestingly, bin Salman is linking the decision to let women drive to the state of Saudia Arabia's economy, and the need to increase the number of women working.

Halthloul and another woman activist, Maysaa al-Amoudi, who was also detained, have been credited with successfully campaigning against the driving ban.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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