Women can now drive in Saudi Arabia

Women to be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia

Carmakers joined governments in welcoming the order by Saudi Arabia's King Salman that new rules allowing women to drive be drawn up within 30 days and implemented by June 2018, removing a stain on the country's worldwide image.

After decades of repressing their women in a multitude of ways, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has granted its women the right to drive. The shock announcement is part of Saudi Arabia's ambitious reform push aimed at adapting to a post-oil era and improving a global reputation battered by its human rights record. The order is effective immediately, although the rollout could take months, said the Saudi Press Agency.

Champions of the women's rights movement have a new reason to celebrate.

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

Midrange brands dominate the Saudi market, with Toyota, Hyundai-Kia and Nissan together commanding a 71 percent share of sales. The male guardianship system requires women to have a male relative's approval for decisions on education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.


The Saudi government has said Vision 2030, a vast plan of economic and social reforms, will raise women's share of the labour market to 30 percent from 22 percent now. This means less than one-third of the world's lawmakers are women.

Given the driving ban, women have recently begun to rely on ride-hailing apps like Uber, which have facilitated their entry into the workforce, and decreased their dependency on men to chauffeur them.

"Allowing women to drive is the biggest PR win that Saudi Arabia - and Prince Mohammed - could have in a single swoop", said Jane Kinninmont, of London-based think tank Chatham House.

The decree also said a high-level ministerial committee was being formed to study other issues that needed to be addressed for the change to take place. The scholars see no reason not to allow women to drive as long as there are legal and regulatory guarantees to avoid the pretexts (that those against women driving had in mind), even if they are unlikely to happen. Still, lifting the driving ban on women could help the country's worldwide reputation. The US-raised Saudi citizen worked with various ministries in Riyadh before returning to the States in 2017.

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