Riyadh: Saudi women will be allowed to start driving in the kingdom from June 24, the General Department of Traffic Director General Mohammed al-Bassami said on Tuesday. “All the requirements for women in the kingdom to start driving have been established,” Bassami was quoted as saying in a statement released by the government. In September 2017, a royal decree announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving — the only one of its kind in the world. Women 18 years of age and older will be allowed to apply for a driver’s license, Bassami said.
Driving schools for women have been set up across five cities in the conservative kingdom, and teachers will include Saudi women who obtained their licenses abroad. Women with foreign driving licenses will be able to apply for a local one through a separate process, which will also assess their driving skills. “It is no secret that many women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hold driving licences from abroad,” the statement added. Saudi women have previously petitioned the government for the lifting of the ban, and even taken to the wheel in protest.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, is seen as the force behind the lifting of the ban, part of a series of reforms being pushed by the powerful royal in the conservative kingdom. His Vision 2030 reform plan for a post-oil era seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from about 22 percent now. The decision to allow women to drive could give them the much-needed mobility to join the workforce. Saudi women now no longer need male permission to start business.
But Saudi activists say social change will only be cosmetic without dismantling the kingdom’s rigid guardianship system, which requires women to seek permission from a male relative to study, travel and other activities.