In most countries, driving a vehicle is such a mundane task that we do not really give it much importance. However, in the conservative country of Saudi Arabia, driving was a privilege granted to only men.
That was until the country eased out the restrictions on women driving after a royal decree has been issued that will finally allow the female population to take the wheel. A committee has also been formed to implement the ruling and will lay out the recommendations within 30 days. The government will have until June 2018 to implement the new decree.
This announcement was celebrated by many women advocate all over the world, including Manal al-Sharif, one of the women behind Women2Drive campaign. Sharif was jailed back in 2011 after posting a video on YouTube of herself driving a car in Saudi Arabia.
Sharif posted on Twitter, “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop.”
Manal Al-Sharif was one of the women who suffered the consequences of driving in Saudi Arabia. She was jailed after she posted a video of herself driving a car.
Even with the latest development, Saudi Arabia is still way behind Women’s Rights. Driving restrictions is just one of the series of laws and policies that limits women’s actions.
(Meanwhile in Japan, women are so empowered, they hire boyfriends for hours!)
In this country, a guardianship rule exists stopping women from making every life decisions without the assistance of a male relative, even if that is her 7-year old son. Women are also subjected to a very strict dress code which is a traditional Islamic norm. They are also not allowed from contact with stranger men, thus women in the labor force are not common.
Many women’s rights advocate criticize the very strict laws for women in Saudi Arabia.
The move was said to be a strategy to improve the country’s economy because the ease in driving restrictions may also increase the participation of women in the workplace. Many Saudi women who work had to spend money on drivers if they have no male relatives available to drive them to work.
Before this milestone, women were arrested and even lost their jobs for violating the driving restrictions. Many believe that this is only the beginning for women’s advocacy in Saudi Arabia.