Saudi women driving is not feminism's final frontier

Tabitha Dunn
September 29, 2017

Saudi Arabia's historic decision to allow women to drive won plaudits internationally and inside the kingdom on Wednesday, as euphoria mixed with disbelief among activists who long fought the ban.

Hillary Clinton is very excited that women are finally being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. The shock announcement is part of Saudi Arabia's ambitious reform push aimed at adapting to a post-oil era and improving a global reputation battered by its human rights record.

The change, which will take effect in June 2018, was announced in a royal decree read live on state television and in a simultaneous media event in Washington.

Champions of the women's rights movement have a new reason to celebrate.

A Sydney-based Saudi rights activist who led a campaign for women to drive in the conservative kingdom Thursday vowed to return and become one of the first to legally get behind the wheel.

"I'm glad they are taking it off the books and they give the freedom of the women to drive", Buti said.

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"I think our leadership understands our society is ready", Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said.

The visit follows Somalia's reiteration of its neutral stands last week in the Gulf crisis that saw Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June. It was unclear whether women would require their guardian's permission to apply for driving licences. But the rule change adds nearly 9 million potential drivers, including 2.7 million resident non-Saudi women, Merrill Lynch has calculated. This means less than one-third of the world's lawmakers are women. Women already dominate men in numbers at universities.

Indeed, the past few months have seen Saudi Arabia make incremental steps toward women's rights by allowing them to participate in functions considered mundane, if not a nuisance, in many other countries.

Given the driving ban, women have recently begun to rely on ride-hailing apps like Uber, which have facilitated their entry into the workforce, and decreased their dependency on men to chauffeur them.

According to the clerics, the majority of Council members saw no problem with women driving as long as there were guarantees and laws to maintain the respect and dignity of women, Efe reported.

Therefore; adopt the application of the Traffic Regulations and its executive list - which include issuing driving licences to men and women alike, and forming a high-level committee of ministries (including the Interior Ministry, Finance Ministry, Ministry of Labour and Social Development) to study the necessary steps needed to implement the regulations.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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