Saudi Arabia announces policy allowing women drive

Saudi Arabia Tuesday, announced that it would allow women to drive – ending a policy that has become a global symbol of the repression of women in the home to Islam’s holiest sites.

The change will take effect in June 2018.

Saudi leaders also hope the new policy will help the economy by increasing women’s participation in the workplace.

Ruled according to Shariah law, Saudi officials and clerics have provided explanations for the ban over the years.

While some said that it was inappropriate in Saudi culture for women to drive, or that male drivers would not know how to handle women in cars next to them, others argued that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family.

The momentum to change the policy actually picked up in recent years with the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a 32-year-old son of the king who has laid out a far-reaching plan to overhaul the kingdom’s economy and society.

Beyond the effects it could have on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, letting women drive would definitely help the Saudi economy.

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 outside Saudi’s walls.

The royal decree, read by an announcer of state television and signed by King Salman, said traffic laws would be amended, including to allow the government to issue driver’s licenses “to men and women alike.”

But the decree said a high-level ministerial committee was being formed to study the other issues that needed to be addressed for the change to take place. For example, the police will have to be trained to interact with women in a way that they rarely do in Saudi Arabia, a society where men and women who are not related have little contact.

The committee has 30 days to provide its recommendations, the decree said, so that the new policy can be carried out starting June 24, 2018.

The decree said that the majority of the Council of Senior Scholars — the kingdom’s top clerical body, whose members are appointed by the king — had agreed that the government could permit women to drive if it was done in accordance with Shariah law.

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