Step by step, gender equality is being achieved in one of the most conservative nations in the world — Saudi Arabia. Hours ago, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a decree allowing women to drive. At present, the kingdom is the only country where the act of women driving is forbidden. But by 2018, the order will be fully implemented and, as a result, women will be allowed behind the wheel.
The Independent reports that the news was announced on television and by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike,” said the state-run Saudi Press Agency. Reportedly, the creation of a ministerial body to offer advice on the practicalities of the recent order will be shared within 30 days. By June of 2018, the edict will be fully in place.
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim monarchy which pays heed to Sharia law. For years, clerics argued that allowing women to drive would be a burden on society. For one, male drivers wouldn’t know how to handle driving with women in the cars next to them. And, more conservative voices said that allowing women to drive would “corrupt” Saudi society and lead to sin.
Women’s rights activists have been pushing for the right to drive in the kingdom since the 1990’s. Now that the Council of Senior Religious Scholars — the country’s highest religious authority which advises the King on religious matters, approved the permissibility of the recent decree, women finally have the right to drive themselves. Reportedly, the new rules must “apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards.”
As might be expected, Saudi Arabia is experiencing some upheaval as a result of its progressive allowances. For instance, after allowing women into the country’s national stadium for the first time ever, as part of the kingdom’s 87th anniversary celebrating its founding, Saudi authorities faced a social media backlash.
Though some critics oppose the development, Prince Khaled bin Salman says it is the “right time” for Saudi Arabia to “do the right thing.” He added that his government viewed women driving as a social issue, not a religious or cultural matter. As a result, change is expected. The Independent reports, “He said Saudi Arabia would recognise driver’s licences issued to women in other Gulf Co-operation Council countries, but would not comment on whether Saudi Arabia would take other steps to expand rights for women.”
Others who have welcomed the development include Manal al-Sharif, an activist and the organizer of the Women2Drive campaign who has been imprisoned for driving. She tweeted that Saudi Arabia would “never be the same again.”
IMAGE CREDIT:dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo
I am Luke Miller, content manager at Truth Theory and creator of Potential For Change. I like to blend psychology and spirituality to help you create more happiness in your life.Grab a copy of my free 33 Page Illustrated eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control Here