Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive, state media reported late Tuesday, citing a royal decree issued by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, on Tuesday.
The decree has ordered that a ministerial body be set up to give advice within 30 days and that the order will be implemented by June 2018.
“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,”
“Saudi Arabia allows women to drive,” the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Twitter, according to Arab News.
The decree states that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards,” adding that most members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars had approved the new regulations.
The US was quick to welcome the move with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert telling journalists Washington is “happy” and that it’s “a great step in the right direction.”
Saudi women would not need permission from a male guardian to obtain a driving license after the new rules take effect, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US said. He added that Saudi authorities believe the time has come for a change as the Arab country now has a “young, dynamic and open society.”
He went on to say that women from the Gulf Cooperation Council member states, who have a driving license, would also be allowed to drive in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is known for its adherence to the ultra-conservative norms of Islam and strict segregation of men and women. It has long been the only state where women were officially forbidden to drive. However, it has recently showed signs of reform.
On Saturday, September 24, Saudi women were first allowed to enter a stadium – a public place typically reserved for men – to attend celebrations of the Kingdom’s 87th anniversary.
However, some parts of Saudi society are apparently still resisting the change. On September 22, a Saudi cleric claimed that women don’t deserve to drive because they only have a quarter of a brain. His comments provoked a wave of public indignation and the cleric was banned from performing his religious duties because of his outrageous comments.