Women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive, the government announced on Tuesday, following a royal decree from King Salman.
This move means women will be issued with permits allowing them to get behind the wheel, it was announced on state TV yesterday.
Although it wasn’t previously illegal, the government wouldn’t issue them permits; Saudi Arabia has long been the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving, and the ban has been the subject of extensive protests in and outside the country.
A ministerial body will be formed to advise on the change, which will given females the freedom, within the next 30 days. The new rules will come into play by June 2018.
The Saudi ambassador to America said the guardianship system, under which women must have a male guardian who can make critical decisions on her behalf, should also be brought to an end.
“It’s not just a social change, it’s part of economic reform,” ambassador Prince Khaled bin Salman said.
He said women will not need permission from a legal guardian to drive, and that licences issued from elsewhere in the Gulf Cooperation Council would apply in Saudi Arabia.
In the decree, King Salman spoke of the “negative consequences of not allowing women to drive” and “the positive aspects of allowing it”.
He added that the “majority” of senior scholars viewed allowing women to drive as legitimate.
Progress has been made in Saudi Arabia for women’s rights, but it has been slow. In 2013, King Abdullah – Salman’s predecessor – appointed 30 women to the Shura Council, the highest advisory body, and in 2015, women were allowed to both vote in and run for office in municipal council elections, for the first time in the country’s history.
In May his successor, King Salman, ordered that government agencies publish lists of services that women can access, without a male guardian present, and ordered that employers provide women with transport.