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The New Arab

Saudi women will need permission from male 'guardians' to drive

The kingdom still has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 September, 2017

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Saudi women will have to obtain permission from a male guardian to get ahold of a driving licence, the Saudi ambassador to Washington has said.

Saudi women will have to obtain permission from a male guardian to get hold of a driving licence, the Saudi ambassador to Washington has said.

Khalid bin Salman told Saudi online newspaper Okaz on Tuesday that women in the ultra-conservative kingdom will only be allowed behind the wheel after being granted permission from a guardian.

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it would allow women to drive, the last country in the world to do so, sparking euphoria and disbelief among activists.

It was unclear whether there will be an age restriction on women driving with some online activists saying only women over the age of 30 will be granted license, though this has yet to be confirmed. 

Despite the opening, Saudi women remain largely subject to the whims of men due to guardianship laws , which bar them from obtaining a passport, traveling abroad or marrying without the consent of a male relative.

Women who attempt to flee abusive families have also faced imprisonment or been forced into shelters.

Khalid bin Salman said that women that have drivers licenses from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would be eligible to drive in the country.

Rights group Human Rights Watch hailed the move to allow women to drive but called on authorities to end male guardianship laws.

"Saudi Arabia finally lets women drive. Now revoke guardianship laws and stop treating women like children," HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said on Twitter.

Despite Riyadh lifting its controversial ban - a move which will come into effect from June 2018 - the kingdom still has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women.

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