First Saudi Women Get Driving Licences As Country Prepares To Lift Ban On Female Drivers

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Ten women in Saudi Arabia have been given driving licences as the kingdom’s ban on female drivers is about to be lifted.

Saudi women have had to hire male drivers, use taxis or rely on relatives to get to and from work, or to run errands, but it’s about to change.

Women have been preparing for their right to drive by taking courses.

According to TIME, a government statement said the 10 women who’ve been given licences have already held them in other countries, including the US, UK, Lebanon and Canada.

The women took a driving test as well as an eye exam before being handed their licences.

Officials said they expect another 2,000 women to seek licences over the course of this week, according to a news release from the country’s Ministry of Media.

The good news comes after some bad, with authorities detaining 17 activists last week for ‘undermining’ the kingdom’s security.

Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the crackdown on activists is ‘perplexing’.

She said:

If, as it appears, their detention is related solely to their work as human rights defenders and activists on women’s issues, they should be released immediately.

Saudi Women Driving Getty

Almost 50 women took part in what’s reported to have been the first driving protest 28 years ago, they were arrested, they lost their jobs, had their passports confiscated and faced severe stigmatisation in society.

Nourah Alghanem, who was one of the women who helped to plan to protest, told the Independent:

I’d thought maybe I’d die before I saw it. What’s important is that our kingdom entered the 21st century… finally!

However, some people remain sceptical over the move.

One Twitter user wrote:

It’s June 4th, 2018 and today the FIRST woman in Saudi Arabia got her driver’s license. But let’s not get lost in celebration and pretend Saudi Arabia has fundamentally “changed”.

It’s still an oppressive dictatorship. This whole thing is just for propaganda tbh. [sic].

Saudi Arabia has been lifting some ‘restrictions on women’s education and improving access to public spaces like sports stadiums and movie theatres’, writes CNN.

In May, last year, King Salman ordered the government to list services women can seek on their own ‘without permission from their fathers, husbands or other male guardians’.

He also ordered businesses to provide transport for their female employees.

Last year, the crown prince outlined a plan to reform the Saudi economy by 2030, which included increasing the number of women in the workforce.

In 2015, women were elected as councillors in parts of Saudi Arabia for the first time, after a ban on women taking part in elections was lifted.

According to BBC News, 978 female candidates stood alongside 5,938 men, and reportedly 130,000 women registered to vote, with 1.35 million men intending to visit the ballot.

Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi was named as Saudi Arabia’s first elected female politician, after winning a seat on the council in Madrakah, in Makkah province.

She was running against seven men and two women, the electoral authorities said.

Times are certainly moving forward for women in Saudi Arabia.

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