On Tuesday, Salman bin Abdulaziz, the king of Saudi Arabia, signed a royal decree to permit Saudi women to obtain a driver’s license and drive. The new decree is to be under effect from June 2018. After the signing of the landmark decree, Saudi’s foreign affairs ministry tweeted, “By order .. Traffic system allows women to drive the car in the Kingdom” ((ar)) .
Saudi Arabia was the only country where women were prohibited from driving. A committee of ministers is to decide upon how to implement this decree, and provide recommendations within a month. A majority of the country’s religious advisory Council of Senior Scholars had agreed with the amendments. Though women would be issued driving license, their permission to drive would have be in accordance with the Shari’a law, the scholars said. Also, Saudi Arabia has a law about guardianship, which mandates women seek permission from male guardians before leaving home. The committee would recommend about scenarios like this.
Last year, prince Alwaleed bin Talal issued a statement in support of eradicating this ban. The prince said, “Preventing a woman from driving a car is today an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity”. He added, “They are all unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion.” The prince also cited economic concerns. In his statement, he said families had to rely on drivers when a female member had to travel, which could be avoided if women were allowed to drive. He said, “Having women drive has become an urgent social demand predicated upon current economic circumstances”.
Manal al-Sharif, who was punished for driving in Saudi Arabia, and who advocated rights for women to drive, tweeted, “Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive #Women2Drive#Daring2Drive we did it”, after the announcement was made. Women who protested against the unequal rights in 1990 and 2011 were punished, in various cases jailed and banned from travel for years.