Saudi Arabia announced late September that it would lift the longstanding ban it’d imposed stopping women in the kingdom from driving vehicles in traffic.
The announcement is part of an effort the country is making to improve its global reputation, though leaders hope it will also improve the economy by freeing up money women now spend on drivers or asking male relatives for rides, reports the New York Times.
The ban – to be lifted June 2018 – has been in effect for more than 25 years, and was first protested in 1990. The women who participated in that protest, by driving around the capital, Riyadh, were arrested, and some lost their jobs.
The move is expected to face some resistance inside the ultraconservative kingdom, especially since women will not have to seek their husband’s, father’s, or anyone else’s permission to obtain a driver’s licence, and will be able to drive alone.
Before lifting the ban, Saudi Arabia, a monarchy ruled under Sharia law, was the only remaining country in the world to impose such a restriction on women. The justifications for upholding the ban were numerous and not always logical.
“Some said that it was inappropriate in Saudi culture for women to drive, or that male drivers would not know how to handle having women in cars next to them,” explains the Times.
“Others argued that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family. One cleric claimed – with no evidence – that driving harmed women’s ovaries.”
While the royal decree announcing the lifting of the ban makes clear several new rules that will go into effect, the kingdom’s Interior Ministry still has to decide if it will let women work as professional drivers.
(via the New York Times)