Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Women Drivers

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1 day ago
Saudi Arabia allows women to drive

Over the years conservative clerics claimed that driving harmed women's ovaries

Poor governance has contributed to Saudi Arabia's woeful record in road safety, analysts say, and the government is aiming to reduce the number of deaths by a quarter as part of its ambitious Vision 2030 reform programme. It's hard to imagine that external pressure to lift the driving ban would have any impact on government decision-making.

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst for Cox Automotive in the US who has studied the Saudi Arabian market, said families with the means likely already have enough vehicles because women are already being transported in them, with male drivers.

The ambassador added: "The issue of women driving was never a religious or a cultural issue". That door, despite numerous setbacks over almost three decades, has never been shut.

There are more than 10 million adult women in Saudi Arabia, including foreigners. It took 27 years to take measure of our society's attitude.

For decades, Saudi women have been fighting to lift the driving ban. Letting women drive could eventually raise pressure to remove other obstacles to their employment, such as a male guardianship system.

And that time is now because it makes economic sense.

"The lifting of a ban... will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition", said James Dorsey, a fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Banque Saudi Fransi recently reported that 670,000 foreign workers are expected to return to their native countries by 2020.

The Saudi market peaked at 685,000 new vehicles sold in 2015, falling to under 600,000 in 2016, and is forecast to finish this year at 530,000. Women returning from foreign universities armed with graduate and post-graduate degrees need jobs.

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After Tuesday's announcement, the hashtags "I am my own guardian" and "Saudi Women Can Drive" gained traction on social media, while many openly lampooned conservatives who long defended the ban.

Unlike previous rulers, he has shown a willingness to tackle entrenched Saudi taboos, and is seen as catering to the aspirations of youth with an array of entertainment options and promoting more women in the workforce. Female passengers are also exposed to sexual harassment, sexual assault, theft and robbery with drivers often identified as the attacker.

There are also many Saudi families who do not have the money to buy new cars.

The knock against Saudi Arabia now is that it lifted the ban as a public relations ploy to improve its global standing.

In belief, the decision of Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive is a great step and will certainly have a positive impact on changing the Muslim world to the better.

Women still face numerous disadvantages in the country, although it appears that the government has started taking steps to push back on the Wahabbi leaders who continue to wield substantial influence Saudi Arabia.

Once the decree is implemented women will not need permission from a male guardian to obtain a driving permit, nor will they need a man in the auto when they are behind the wheel.

According to reports, under the new law, women can legally obtain a driving licence without asking a male guardian for permission.

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