Last September, we reported that Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman passed a ruling to allow women to finally obtain driving licenses. This was seen as a crucial step to help strengthen the role of women in society. It has taken some time to go through.
On June 24th, 2018 the long-standing driving ban on women was finally lifted. At the stroke of midnight, women were seen zipping through the streets in celebration!
Over the last couple of months, women prepared themselves by taking driving lessons and evaluating cars. The government began issuing its first driving licenses to women. Some women swapped their foreign driving permits for Saudi licenses.
It is a huge win and relief for women in Saudi Arabia! They can now drive to the grocery store, to work, drop their children to school or just grab coffee with friends without relying on their husbands, fathers, brothers and drivers.
The Crown Prince wants to bring larger parts of the Saudi population into the labour force. Many women don’t work because of the history of cultural traditions and the use of transport. Many believe that this important step has been taken to help add women to the workforce. This move will help increase family incomes and thus spending.
While the Crown Prince has started to encourage freedom in a few areas for Saudi women, activists believe that there is a lot more that should be done. Today, the day that women in the area are driving, there are still several women’s rights activists who remain under arrest for fighting for the right to drive amongst other liberties.
Post: 27 September 2017
A new ruling in Saudi Arabia allows women to get driver licences.
Where is Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is a country in the Middle East. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula. It is mostly desert. It is the birthplace of Islam. Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holy cities are situated in Saudi Arabia.
How is it ruled?
It is ruled by a king and his appointed ministers. Saudi Arabia’s ruling family is the Al Sauds. The current ruler King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has been king since January 2015. The country runs according to a particular type of Islamic law called Sharia.
What is the Sharia Law?
The law has a set of practices and traditions that guide Muslims in their daily lives. This conservative system currently protects women, some think a little too much! There are many things Saudi women can’t do. For example they can’t marry, travel, open a bank account, or get a job without the permission of their male guardians – father, brother or husband. They must appear in public wearing a full-length black abaya. The law restricts women’s public life.
How is Saudi Arabia’s king trying to reform their old traditions to give women more freedom?
King Salman has been helping to transform the current conservative environment step by step. Until now, women in Saudi Arabia have needed the permission of a legal guardian i.e their father, husband or brother to get a licence.
After his latest ruling on 26 September, 2017, Saudi Arabia will finally let women obtain driving licences. Women will no longer need permission to take driving lessons, and they can drive anywhere they want. He has now said that local authorities must be prepared to issue women applicants driving licences within 30 days.
What are some other changes that have helped women in Saudi Arabia?
In 2015, women were allowed to vote there for the first time. In the last month itself, women were also allowed into a sports stadium and enter a concert for the first time last week.
These changes are very promising. They are definitely a movement towards giving women more freedom. As women’s rights activist Sharif, says on Twitter “Saudi Arabia will never be the same,” and hopes that “The rain begins with a single drop.”
Written By: Biyash Choksey