In a first, women across Saudi Arabia were legally allowed to drive for the first time since 1957 on June 24, 2018, thus, ending the world’s last ban on female drivers which was seen as a symbol of women’s repression in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.
Following the lifting of ban, women in Saudi Arabia fired up their engines and hit the roads, marking the moment they had waited for since the issuance of the royal decree by King Salman on September 26, 2017 to lift the driving ban on women.
Following the royal decree, driving schools for women were set up in the kingdom. Female driving instructors who obtained licences abroad were offered with the teaching positions.
As estimated, over 3 million women are expected to drive in the country by 2020.
Royal Decree ending the driving ban on women
• Saudi King Salman on September 16, 2017 issued a royal decree that allows women to drive cars. The end of the ban was ordered as part of the reforms pushed by King’s young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
• The decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018.
• The royal decree ended a conservative tradition seen by rights activists as an emblem of the Islamic kingdom's repression of women.
Timeline to the road of reform
Women of Saudi Arabia, their limitations and the progressive reforms
• Saudi Arabia has been widely criticised for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
• The driving ban had been a longstanding stain on Saudi Arabia's international image.
• In Saudi Arabia, women are legally subject to a male guardian, who must give approval to basic decisions they make in fields including education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.
• Women in the kingdom are also bound by law to wear long robes and a headscarf and require the consent of a male guardian for most legal actions.
• However, there has been gradual improvement on some women's issues in recent years ever since Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed as the Crown Prince on June 21, 2017.
• The 32-year-old prince pledged a ‘moderate and open’ Saudi Arabia in October 2017, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.
The changing face of Saudi Arabia’s women
Saudi Arabia allows women to open business without male consent: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on February 15, 2018 announced a major policy change by allowing women to open their own businesses without the need of showing consent from a husband or male relative.
Women investigators: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office announced in February 2018 that it would begin recruiting women investigators for the first time.
Women staff at airports: The nation has also opened 140 positions for women at airports and border crossings, which drew over 107,000 female applicants- again a historic first for the nation.
Saudi Arabia allows women to enlist in military: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has for the first-ever time opened applications for women to enlist in the military. Women were given time till March 1, 2018 to apply for positions with the rank of soldier in the provinces of Riyadh, Mecca, al-Qassim and Medina.
Saudi Arabia to allow women into sports stadiums: Turki Al-Asheikh, Chairman of the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia, on 29 October 2017 announced that Saudi women will now be able to attend sports events in stadiums starting from 2018.
Sophia, the first ever female robot to get citizenship in Saudi: A robot named “Sophia” made history, as it became the first ever to be granted a full Saudi Arabian citizenship.