…And maybe just maybe Burkas are next. Well, don’t count on it. But this is tremendous progress for a country that has a terrible record on women’s rights. Can you imagine telling the “independent ladies” of the U.S.A. that they can no longer drive their Volkswagen Beetle, Nissan Rogue or Honda CR-V?
So the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decreed on Tuesday that it would allow women to drive. This change will take effect in June 2018. It was announced live on state television and for some odd reason at a media event in Washington, which only shows their overwhelming influence in the United States. Seems like the decision has a large part to do with the kingdom’s international reputation and hopes for a PR benefit from the decision.
Saudi leaders are also hoping that it can stimulate economy by increasing women’s workplace participation now that it is easier to get to work. Many of the Saudi women that work, spend much of their salaries on drivers or must be driven to work by male relatives. (Talk about a pain in the ass)
Saudi Arabia, is an absolute monarchy ruled according to Shariah law. Saudi officials and clerics have long provided numerous (stupid) explanations for the ban over the years.
Now if you can actually believe this, some clerics felt that it was inappropriate for women to drive, or that male drivers would not know how to handle having women in cars next to them. And for an even stupider and more far fetched reason, others pointed out that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family. No seriously people. Have keys ; will be whore. Some A to B logic, huh? And by far the oddest and saddest reason given by one cleric claimed that driving actually harmed women’s ovaries.
For awhile no rights groups and Saudi activists have campaigned for the driving ban to be overturned, and some women have even been arrested and jailed for defying the prohibition and going out for a cruise.
Putting an end to the ban is expected to face some resistance inside the kingdom, where families are highly patriarchal. In another zinger of an excuse and a great reason to get AAA in Saudi Arabia, the men say they worry about their female relatives getting stranded should their cars break down. (They can’t be serious. If she gets stranded, get help)
A Saudi ambassador said that women would be able to drive alone but that the Interior Ministry would decide whether they could work as professional drivers. (Let’s crawl before we run, folks. Saudi women are not priming to drive for Uber or Lyft, just yet.) When coincidentally, in recent years, many Saudi women have come relied on ride-sharing services Uber and Careem to enjoy some freedom of movement.
There was little public dissent on Tuesday. But that may be because the Saudi government often pressures prominent voices to make sure they either back the government or keep their mouths shut. Not everyone in the land is in favor. After the lifting of the driving ban was announced, an anonymous text circulated through What’s App in Saudi calling on the “virtuous ones” to work against its implementing and to protect against epidemics, adultery and other disasters.
Low oil prices are limiting government jobs that many Saudis have long relied on. The kingdom is trying to get more citizens, including women, into private sector employment. Some working Saudi women say that hiring drivers and ride share apps to get them to and from work eats up much of their pay, and that is diminishing their incentive to work.
Many of the kingdom’s professionals and young people will welcome the change, viewing it as a step to making life in the country a bit more like life elsewhere.
This move was a total no brainer. Welcome to 2017 Saudi Arabia. Now can we work on the funding terrorism thing?