Giving Women Auto-nomy: Women In Saudi Arabia Can Finally Drive

As of last week, there was only one country in the whole world that barred women from driving a car: Saudi Arabia. Finally, though, Saudi Arabia is prepared to get with the times and let women get licenses – and not to mention some autonomy along with it.

On Tuesday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a royal decree to allow women this right. “I think our society is ready,” he said. Realistically, it’s going to take until next summer for the rule change to go into effect.

Let’s not label this an act of benevolence by the king, it is very much a valiant victory for Saudi women. This achievement followed a struggle decades in the making. Some of the country’s women have been arrested for defying the laws – driving protests of this nature date back to 1990.

Pressure from the international community also certainly played a role. The decision by Saudi leaders seems at least partially motivated by a desire to not look completely backwards. With so many other conservative Islamic countries that don’t deprive women of driver’s licenses, Saudi had developed a reputation as the most oppressive.

Economically, it’s probably an overdue decision, as well. Women have started entering the work force in Saudi Arabia in greater numbers, but limited transportation options have been a hindrance. Saudi Arabia has built its wealth around its oil supply, but facing the prospect of a world not reliant on oil for energy, the leaders of the country are already starting to think about how to reshape their economy.

In the past, men have listed a host of bad reasons for not letting women to drive, like that women only have “a quarter of the brainpower of men,” that male drivers would face greater risks sharing the road with women and that women who drive are more likely to be promiscuous. The New York Times notes that “one cleric claimed – with no evidence – that driving harmed women’s ovaries.”

Although Saudi Arabia will be slightly more progressive with women driving, it still has an immense disparity in equality between the sexes. Women are still under a repressive system of male guardianship, in which a male family member is essentially put in charge of each woman’s choices. He must grant permission before she can do all sorts of things like obtaining a passport, opening a business, traveling without a male companion and having a bank account.

Obviously, male guardianship (see Care2′s previous coverage) is something that’s got to go before women have real rights, but letting them drive is certainly a start. Women can’t have independence without a means to transport themselves. Not needing a man to drive them around means women can more easily get to work, go to school, meet with friends – and heck – maybe even leave oppressive men behind.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

41 comments

caroline lord
caroline lord10 days ago

lng verdue -o's nt wrking

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Jaime J
Jaime J10 days ago

Thank you!!

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Amanda M
Amanda M11 days ago

Thanks for sharing =)

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Amanda M
Amanda M11 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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One Heart i
One Heart i12 days ago

Thanks!!!

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N T
N T13 days ago

Finally! Congrats to Saudi women on this movement forward and hoping they continue to progress towards living in a freer society.

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Roberto M
Roberto M14 days ago

this is a good news

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heather g
heather g14 days ago

It's unimaginable that people live in such a repressive society. They're certainly not holding back with their military attacks, so must be totally out-of-touch with reality.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill18 days ago

Thanks

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Carl R
Carl R18 days ago

Thanks!!!

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