Saudi Arabia announced today that it will now allow women to drive starting in June of next year. According to the New York Times, Saudi leaders hope this decision will improve its image around the world, as well as boost the economy now that women will no longer rely on cab drivers or male family members to get around.
The royal decree was signed by King Salman and read aloud on state-sponsored television. It said that traffic laws will be changed to include women, and the state will now issue drivers licenses “to men and women alike.” It also said that a committee will be formed to handle additional changes, such as training police officers on how to interact with the new female drivers.
Previously, officials have given a wide variety of explanations for the driving ban. It’s been said that driving damages women’s ovaries, encourages promiscuity, and will lead to the collapse of the Saudi family. Saudi men have also been blamed in the past, as they reportedly couldn’t be trusted to handle seeing women behind the wheel. The consequences for violating the ban have also been harsh, with women receiving jail time if they’re caught driving.
One question that still hasn’t been answered is whether or not women will need permission from a male family member before they can get a driver’s license. Saudi Arabia still has so-called “guardianship laws” on the books that give men significant power to control the lives of their female relatives. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be committed to reform, but changing the minds of traditional, conservative families will still take time.