Developing: Clearer Image Emerges Of Female Saudi Drivers
The Saudi Arabian government announced in September that it would allow women to drive in June of 2018. Beyond that, we were not exactly sure about the details of how women would be able to get their licenses. Considering how complex Saudi Arabia and its laws surrounding women are, it was a valid concern. Now that the announcement is a month old, we have a bit of clarification. While not every question has been answered, things are certainly clearer than before.
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First off, women will not need the permission of their guardian to gain their license, nor will there need to be a male family member in the car with her while driving. In the kingdom, women live under constant supervision from men. From birth, their fathers make all their vital decisions, and when they are married the duty falls to their husbands. An unmarried woman of any age is ruled by her father, or if she is too far away from the family another relative might be chosen. In the case of women’s driving activist Manal al-Sharif, when she divorced her husband her brother became one of her guardians. It seems odd, then, that in such a strict society a guardian would not be required to at least obtain a license. The New Yorker reports that women will still need power of attorney from their guardian to buy a car or face punishment up to jail time for disobeying them.
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Part of the reason that Saudi Arabia is waiting to allow women to drive until June is so the police force can prepare to handle female drivers. As Americans, we may laugh, but considering that men and women are segregated from each other it’s not that big of a surprise. According to ArabNews.com, Saudi Arabia’s General Traffic Department is preparing to hire women as officers to assist when a traffic accident involves a female driver. This will allow the government to help women without making male officers uncomfortable.
As we get closer to the deadline in 2018, there will surely be more clarification from the government about how the driving ban will be lifted. We will keep you up to date.