Saudis loosen rules, give women right to drive

Wednesday, 27 Sep, 2017

"I've always wanted to explore the kingdom's coasts". "We will continue to support Saudi Arabia in its to efforts to strengthen Saudi society and the economy through reforms like this and the implementation of Saudi Vision 2030".

Saudi Arabia is in the market to sell dollar bonds today, its second this year. A Saudi cleric, Saad al-Hijr, was recently banned from preaching, after saying that women shouldn't drive because their brains shrink to a quarter of the size of a man's when they go shopping. The act provoked death threats and spurred her to start the campaign.

Some Islamist clerics are now in detention in Saudi Arabia following an apparent crackdown on potential opponents of the kingdom's rulers this month. "The rain begins with a single drop".

Youssef, a professor at King Saud University, says women will continue to push for an end to male guardianship laws that remain in place, which give male relatives the final say on issues like the right of women to travel overseas, obtain a passport and marry. These restrictions are enforced by religious police.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington said on Tuesday women would not need their guardians' permission to get a licence, nor to have a guardian in the auto when driving. It was also welcomed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who saw it as a step on the right path.

"This is huge. There is nothing really more hard than this fight for women to drive because it touches every single woman." said al-Sharif. Saudi women remain largely under the whim of male relatives due to guardianship laws.

"One small pedal for Saudi women, one giant leap for womenkind", Bakr said in a telephone interview from Riyadh.

Prince Mohammed is set to be the first millennial to occupy the throne, in a country where half the population is under 25, when he takes over from his 81-year-old father King Salman. Saudi leaders hope that the announcement will boost women's participation in the workforce. "That is the first thing they should do", al-Sharif told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Australia.

Finally, after years of campaigning and protesting, women in Saudi Arabia have been granted permission to drive.

The ambassador says Saudi Arabia isn't taking the step at the request of the US and that the issue didn't come up during President Donald Trump's recent visit to the kingdom.

The decision could also have broad economic impacts, making it possible for women to get to work without a driver but also curbing the popularity of vehicle hailing apps like Uber and Careem.

Some sarcastically noted the decree was a way for the kingdom's rulers to divert attention away from controversial issues such as human rights abuses and the war in neighboring Yemen.

Many Saudis on social media, irked by the mixing of genders on national day, derisively compared the country to "Las Vegas". "You can be a modern conservative Saudi". The kingdom ultraconservateur announced on Tuesday, September 26, via State television, that he was going to remove the ban by June 2018, reports the New York Times.

The Vision for the country's economic reinvention rests on a number of pillars, including youth empowerment, social organization and women's empowerment, "which is an extremely important element of the changes happening in Saudi Arabia", the ambassador said.