King Salman: Saudi Arabia will finally allow women to drive

By @chelean on
FILE PHOTO: A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013.
FILE PHOTO: A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013. Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

Saudi Arabia will finally allow women to drive. The historic change, announced by King Salman in a royal decree live on state television on Tuesday, will take effect in June 2018.

The Arab country is the only one in the world that does not allow women to drive vehicles. Under its current law, only men are given driving licences. Women who drive in public using their international driving licence are arrested and fined.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered the formation of a ministerial body to study the enforcement and implementation of the law within 30 days. He said the decision was formed after they referred to the views of senior scholars, taking into consideration the positive and negative consequences of allowing women to drive.

“We refer to the negative consequences of not allowing women to drive vehicles and the positive aspects of allowing it to do so, taking into consideration the application of the necessary legal controls and adherence to them,” the decree reads. “We also refer to the view of the majority of the members of the senior scholars on the driving of women of vehicles that the legitimacy of this is in terms of origin, is permissibility that the views of the reservation is focused on considerations related to blocking the possible pretexts that do not reach the certainty and the predominance of the thought do not see impediment to allow it to drive vehicles, in the light of finding guarantees of legitimacy and order necessary to avoid those pretexts, even if they were within the scope of doubtful possibility.”

The change was said to be part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to revamp the country’s society and economy. His Vision 2030 program aims to modernise the kingdom. The 32-year-old prince is already viewed as the country’s de facto ruler who will succeed his 81-year-old father, King Salman.

Prince Khaled bin Salman, the country’s ambassador to US, called the king’s order “the right decision at the right time.” He confirmed that women would not need to get permission from their male guardians to apply for a driver’s licence or to take driving lessons, as opposed to the current “guardianship” laws that states men have the say to everything their female wards do. However, the Interior Ministry would still decide on whether women could work as professional drivers.

The current “guardianship” laws states that men have the say to all things their female wards do. Women need their father, husband or male family member’s permission for their education, employment and even medical treatment. It was just in 2015 that women were finally allowed the right to vote.

The decision was largely met with positive reactions. The hashtag #SaudiWomenCanDrive has begun trending on Twitter, with commenters praising the nation for taking a step in the right direction.

Nevertheless, there were critics of the change, saying the decision was attempting to “bend the verses of Sharia.” One commenter claimed that Sharia scholars have long claimed that it was “haram” (forbidden) for women to drive, and therefore allowing them to do so now would still not make it “halal” (permissible). Religious conservatives also blasted the decree, with some saying it would “lead to intolerable mingling of the sexes.”

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