Rebecca Bernard
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Saudi Arabian Women Win The Right to Drive

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Saudi Arabian Flag

Saudi Arabian Flag
Image: yasser zareaa

Today was just a normal day in our office at The News Wheel. I was scrolling through the latest automotive press releases when editor Meg came over to my desk and knocked on my cube. This is fairly unusual, as we’re a team of mostly millennials known for using IM to talk to the person in the next cube over. I knew whatever she told me had to be important, and it was. An alert from The New York Times had popped up on her phone that announced that the government of Saudi Arabia had finally decided to let women drive.

I admit to maybe crying a little bit at my desk.

Women2drive Saudi Arabia logo

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This change in policy will take effect in June of 2018 and is a result of decades of protests from the women of Saudi Arabia, like activist Manal al-Sharif, author of Daring to Drive. According to The New York Times, the announcement was made at an event in Washington D.C. at the same time it was announced on state television.

Saudi Arabia’s system of government is a Muslim monarchy based in Shariah law. While over the years, clerics have said that allowing women to drive is against the principles of Islam, several figures have pointed out that the ban has more to do with Saudi Arabia’s culture of forcing women to rely on men for everything than it has to do with the Muslim faith. Popular arguments against allowing women to drive include saying it damages female ovaries and that driving makes a woman more vulnerable to rape.

The conflict between female drivers, their supporters, and the Saudi Arabian government has been a black mark on the country’s reputation around the world, considering that it is the only nation to forbid female drivers. Women who protested the law and got behind the wheel received fines and jail time for their activism, and their stories were spread online to sympathetic ears in every corner of the world. This decision is probably less about women’s rights and more about improving international standing, to be quite honest.

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Supposedly the roughly nine months it will take to implement the policy will be used to train the police so that they know how to interact with women. That might sound like a joke, but the society is so divided by gender that it’s possible that male police officers might not know to conduct themselves. There is no word yet about how male guardians, a major part of a woman’s life in Saudi Arabia, will be part of the process, or if the women will be truly free to decide it’s their turn behind the wheel.

We’ll be watching the situation closely. For now, it’s time to raise a glass to the women of Saudi Arabia who fought for this right and have finally won it. You have my most sincere congratulations.

News Source: The New York Times