Saudi Arabia to Lift Ban That Prohibits Women from Driving
Of the many strange or questionable laws around the world, Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving has always stood out, with many international observers pointing to it as an example of the country’s oppressive restrictions on women. For human-rights watchers, Tuesday was a banner day in the kingdom, as the government agreed to allow Saudi women to drive beginning in June 2018.
According to The New York Times, Saudi Arabia’s religious monarchy released a statement via Saudi TV, announcing an end to the longstanding ban. Since it was enacted several decades ago, the ban has brought the kingdom no shortage of negative publicity, something Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hopes to change by lifting the restriction.
In his Vision 2030 development plan last year, the Crown Prince declared that the government would “continue to develop [women’s] talents, invest in their productive capabilities, and enable them to strengthen their future and contribute to the development of our society and economy.”
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. Over the last several decades, religious leaders in the kingdom have used countless out-of-date excuses as to why they believed the government should uphold the ban. In recent years, though, many women openly protested the restriction.
According to CNN, a committee will present recommendations for implementing the ruling within 30 days. After that, the government has until June 24 of next year to put the plan into action, which means women in the oil-rich nation will have to wait until next summer to legally get behind the wheel. And there are likely to be some hiccups along the way: Saudi men and women who are not related rarely interact in public, and with no infrastructure in place to license or teach women to drive, the government will need a contingency in order to enact the decree.
Besides the proclamation made by King Salman today, the monarchy in Saudi Arabia recently allowed women to enter a sports stadium for the first time to witness a special pageant. And earlier this month, a high-ranking cleric was suspended from all religious activity for saying women should not be allowed to drive because their brains shrink to a quarter of a man’s when they shop.
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(Photo via Ayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty)