Saudi Arabia Allows Women To Drive, Backs Down On Long-Standing Ban

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

Saudi Arabian officials announced Tuesday that women will be allowed to drive, relenting on the long-standing ban against women drivers in the birthplace of Islam.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud officially overturned the ban Tuesday, which was announced simultaneously in Washington, D.C., and via a state-run televised address in Saudi Arabia, according to The New York Times. Salman’s decree will not take immediate effect, as Saudi police officers will require new training to interact with women drivers. Women are also still required to be accompanied by a male chaperone at all times when outside the house, which includes when driving, according to the New York Daily News.

Critics worldwide say the ban is a sign of the Saudi government’s oppression against women. Various leaders and Muslim clerics have publicly declared support for the ban over the years, even claiming that allowing women to drive would lead to the degradation of Saudi civilization, promiscuity among women, and would harm women’s ovaries, according to NYT. (Related: Cleric Suspended For Saying Women Have Small Brains, Shouldn’t Drive)

Women have grown increasingly bold in protest of the ban, leading up to Salman’s decree, with some even getting behind the wheel in open defiance of the ban. Support for the overturn of the ban grew further with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise in power and his plan to revitalize Saudi Arabia’s economy, which includes a push for more Saudi citizens, women included, to have the opportunity to find employment. With the overturn of the ban, working women will no longer have to pay for drivers and may be able to take home more of their earnings from work.

The plan to allow women to drive is still developing, however, as Saudi Arabia does not currently have any legal methods by which women can obtain licenses or learn how to drive.

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