It's about damn time.
Amid changing times all around the world, Saudi Arabia announced today that it’s lifting the long-standing ban on women drivers. The New York Times reports that an announcement was made simultaneously on Saudi state television, and at a media event in Washington. Why hold a media event in Washington you ask? It would seem Saudi officials are keen to not just expand women’s rights, but to also launch a PR campaign designed to shed the country’s reputation for being a place where women's rights are terrifically repressed.
Considering a Saudi cleric once allegedly claimed women shouldn’t drive because it harmed their ovaries, we suspect it will take a bit more than a press conference to convince the world that Saudi Arabia has changed. Still, it's a start.
As for the Saudi ladies out there keen to rip up the asphalt in a new Ferrari, you’ll unfortunately have to wait a bit longer. Though the announcement lifting the ban took place today, it won’t actually go into effect until June 2018. The reason for the delay is apparently because Saudi Arabia lacks the infrastructure to instruct or issue licenses to women. We suspect it’s not so much a case of infrastructure as it is cultural – men and women rarely interact in the country and as such there’s bound to be some friction when the two sides come together, and that’s putting it mildly.
Pressure has been mounting on the country for some time now to level the field between genders. Some of that has come from within, notably with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. There are also economic issues at play; the Saudi government has been pushing more of its citizens – women included – to pick up better jobs. Not being able to drive certainly presents a major obstacle to that.
Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to ban women from driving, and it’s been a long time coming. We hope this move helps send a message to everyone around the world – regardless of age, race, gender, skin color, orientation, religion, or fast food preference, we’re all the same. Every single one of us. Let’s enjoy the drive together.
Source: The New York Times