Saudi Arabia gets plaudits for historic decision

Ian Allen     Head coach Theodore Whitmore during a Reggae Boyz training session earlier this year. 

          Gladstone Taylor     Ricketts
Ian Allen Head coach Theodore Whitmore during a Reggae Boyz training session earlier this year. Gladstone Taylor Ricketts

29 September, 2017

Once the decree is implemented women will not need permission from a male guardian to obtain a driving permit, nor will they need a man in the vehicle when they are behind the wheel.

"If by June next year women in Saudi Arabia are driving the streets without fear of arrest, then this will be a cause for celebration", said Philip Luther, from Amnesty International.

Another activist Manal al-Sharif, who led the 2011 "Women2Drive" protest movement, tweeted earlier today: "Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive... we did it". Females are also subject to strict dress codes and gender segregation. On Wednesday, the kingdom said it would lift a ban on women driving next year.

The crash in world oil prices in 2014 and 2015 has transformed Saudi Arabia's finances, blowing a huge hole in the kingdom's budget.

One of the most important implications of the Saudi decision to allow women to drive is that it opened the opportunity for changing the ways of understanding the religion from "Absolutism" to "Relativism".

There are approximately 800,000 drivers working for Saudi women.

The Saudi Arabian prince in charge of introducing female driving licences has said that having women on the roads will make the country safer.

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Samira Atallah, Senior Advisor for global women's rights organisation Equality Now, says "the royal decree allowing women to drive is long overdue". They quickly released ads on Twitter congratulating Saudi women on the right to drive.

"Saudi Arabia has long assumed a leading role in protecting Lebanon, starting with its sponsorship of the Taif Agreement and supporting the country's economy". Even the stunning Vision 2030 program unveiled by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is an extension of the steady progress that has already been made. It will also facilitate the entry of more women into the workforce and allow an increase in female employment, which is key to the kingdom's economic development.

The royal decree issued on September 26. said the order would be implemented by June 24, 2018, after the formation of a ministerial advisory body.

The Kingdom has been the only country that continued to ban women from getting behind the wheel of an automobile. In fact, the majority of the members of the Council of Senior Scholars in the Kingdom agree that Islam does not ban women from driving.

Activists are dismissive of these concerns, celebrating their hard-won victory with a determination to face inevitable challenges and backlash. Saudi officials and clerics have provided numerous explanations for the ban over the years.

"The determination to reform is clear, as a new Saudi Arabia is being constructed right in front of our eyes", said John Sfakianakis, director of Riyadh-based Gulf Research Centre. Being able to drive, while helpful, will not change the violations of women's rights and abuses committed against women by their male relatives and the state on a daily basis.

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