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Saudi Arabia lifts controversial ban on women driving in the kingdom

Saudi women will soon be allowed to drive in the kingdom [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2017

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Saudi Arabia has announced that it will end its ban on women driving in the kingdom in a royal decree. The new law is expected to begin in June.

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive in the kingdom, state media announced on Tuesday evening, with driving licenses to be issued to women from next summer.

The announcement breaks a long-standing and controversial ban on women driving in the kingdom.

The changes follow apparant consultation between the ruling royal family, ministries and clerics.

"A decision has been issued to implement traffic rules and its executive policies, including issuing driving license to both males and females," Saudi Press Agency said on Twitter.

Although the details are still sketchy, Saudi Arabia's al-Arabiya news network said a "high-level committee" will be set up to look into the details over the coming 30 days.

The new law is expected to be implemented by June 2018.

The new decree is thought to be the work of Saudi Arabia's influential Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman. The heir to the throne has previously hinted at a possible change to the law in the coming years.

It follows a number of reforms by bin Salman, who is seeking to find alternative non-oil based revenues for the kingdom and provide a more relaxed environment for young Saudis, investors and tourists.

Women have instead had to rely on costly or time-consuming alternatives, such as chauffeurs or family members to drive them around.

Some say lower-income Saudis suffer most from the restrictions as they cannot afford personal drivers.

It has become symbol of oppression against women in the kingdom and led to a number of activists being detained after illegally driving in Saudi Arabia in protest at the ban.

A number of conservative Muslim clerics strongly back the ban.

This week, a Saudi cleric said women should not be allowed to drive because they have a "quarter" of the brainpower of men.

Such views are widespread among traditionalists in the kingdom.

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