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Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban On Women Drivers

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Saudi women have been granted the right to drive by royal decree. The ruling, which was signed into law by King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, means there is now no country in the world where women cannot drive.

The order was announced by the Saudi foreign ministry on Sept. 26. Before the ruling, women in Saudi Arabia were banned for driving for primarily religious reasons.

The king stressed in his decree that Islamic laws would be maintained, reports the Saudi Gazette. He listed the pros and cons of allowing women to drive and noted that Islamic scholars found no distinct rule in Sharia law to prevent women doing so.

The Saudi monarch tasked Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Naif to appoint a committee of ministers who will have 30 days to review the decree and present their recommendations.  

The law is set to take effect no later than June 24, 2018.  

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Although some religious conservatives oppose the decree, attitudes in Saudi leadership have been slowly becoming more accepting of expanding women's rights.

Al Jazeera reports that since 2013, women have held governmental advisory positions and gained the right to vote and run for office. The first women were elected to municipal councils in 2015, reports CNN.

In 2016, Prince Alweed bin Talal began to press the issue of allowing women behind the wheel.

"Preventing a woman from driving a car is today an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity," Alwaleed said, according to Al Jazeera.

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In June 2017, King Salman appointed his son, 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. The crown prince is responsible for the nation's ambitious "Vision 2030," a progressive reform plan that will include provisions to expand women's roles in society.

Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Khaled bin Salman spoke in support of the new ruling, saying the move was "part of Vision 2030, which is a huge step towards a brighter future."

Alweed said there were economic benefits to allowing women to drive, as families can spend up to $1,000 per month to hire male drivers.

Unlike some other things, women will not have to ask permission from men to drive.

CNN reports that permissions were relaxed in May 2017 to allow women to access government services without first asking a man's permission. It is expected that women will be permitted to do more things on their own as Vision 2030 progresses.

Sources: CNN, Saudi Gazette, Al Jazeera / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Jim Matttis/Wikimedia Commons, Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons

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