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  • A woman behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia in 2013.

    A woman behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia in 2013. | Photo: Reuters

Rights group both within and outside the U.S.-allied country have long campaigned for women to be able to drive in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has issued a royal decree to reverse the ban on women driving.

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The ban had previously been maintained on claims of promiscuity, that it was a threat to the Saudi family and even suggestions driving could harm women’s ovaries.

"The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike," the Saudi Press Agency said.

The change, to come into effect in June next year, will also have a ministerial committee study related issues, such as training police officers in the country to interact with women drivers.

Rights group both within and outside the U.S.-allied country have long campaigned for women to be able to drive in the kingdom. Many women have been arrested and served jail time for defying the law.

Loujain Hathloul was arrested for driving in late 2014 and jailed for 73 days. Upon hearing the news, she tweeted, “Thank God!”

Manal al-Sharif, another Saudi women’s rights advocate who had also filmed herself driving in 2011 and posted the footage online, celebrated the news.

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Under the new law, women will be able to get driver licenses without needing the permission of their husbands, fathers or any male guardian — even though the so-called “guardianship” laws are still in place.

These guardianship laws prevent women from traveling abroad, working and even undergoing some medical procedures without the consent of a male “guardian,” often a father, a husband or even a son.

Saudi women have long relied on chauffeurs to transport them, with some 800,000 men employed as drivers in the country.

The policy reversal has been made in the hopes of improving the kingdom’s international reputation, Saudi officials said. The change is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program, which pledges to “modernize” Saudi society.


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