Reversing Driving Ban Changes Role of Saudi Women
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has signed a royal decree that reversed the long-standing ruling that denied women the right to drive. The decree states women are allowed to drive “in accordance with the Islamic laws.” The reversing of this ban is a big step in changing the role of women in Saudi Arabia.
The lift of the ban even brings back money to the Saudi economy because families spent thousands on taxis and hiring foreign drivers. Saudi families are able to save more money monthly this way as well.
The expansion of female rights began under the the ruling of the late king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. He appointed a few women to the Shura Council which advises the cabinet. In 2013, he also allowed women to vote and even run for municipal elections. Lifting the ban on women drivers is only one step closer towards more freedom for women in Saudi Arabia. Women are still not allowed to marry, divorce, open a bank account, travel, get a job or interact with any males not related to her without the permission of a male guardian.
Previously, Saudi Arabia was the only country that denied women the right to drive. There have been many women who have stood up against the restriction and have gone to jail for it. Unfortunately, one Saudi women just died learning how to drive when she suddenly sped up and hit a cement wall. She is survived by her husband who is currently in the hospital. He was teaching her to drive. This is definitely going to fuel the voices against the new decree even though this accident could have happened to anyone.
This change in the laws is a big step for a country like Saudi Arabia. There was a mixed-gender celebration which commenced on Saudi Arabia’s National Day after the decree was announced. Women were allowed to enter the sports stadium, previously a male-only arena, for a music concert. The celebrations shed light on the kingdom’s economic reform plans post-oil era.
The order is effective immediately, but according to the Saudi Press Agency, it will take months to roll out with a high-level committee of ministers working out the details and enforcing the order. There are also plans to bring more female driving instructors from abroad and establish driving schools for women only. It is said the new decree will be implemented sometime in June 2018.