Saudi Arabia hands women the keys

Francis Osborne
September 29, 2017

The structural racism in Saudi Arabia is all-pervasive, and it can be seen in the absence of non-Saudi women resident in Saudi Arabia being given a platform to discuss women's rights.

In the years since, female activists have kept at it, more recently uploading videos of themselves driving to YouTube to gain global attention, and suffering insults, jail time and even the threat of punishment by lashing.

A royal decree signed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz has ended a policy that has been widely criticized worldwide as a human rights violation. "Men and women, my wife she drives, and my sister she drives". The decision highlights the damage that the ban on women driving has done to the kingdom's worldwide reputation and its hopes for a public relations benefit from the reform. Nor will they need permission to take driving lessons.

This decision was adopted due to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is now attempting a profound transformation of the Saudi economy and society.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, is an absolute monarchy ruled according to Shariah law. The male guardianship system requires women to have a male relative's approval for decisions on education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment. This means less than one-third of the world's lawmakers are women.

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Some hit back at sexist jokes that flooded Saudi Twitter in the wake of the driving ban being lifted, reminding people that Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest vehicle accidents rates, while only men are driving.

There was some opposition online, however, with some men criticising the decision on Twitter under the slogan "the people refuse women driving". It was just five years ago this November that authorities began sending men text messages whenever the women they oversaw left the country.

It is important to celebrate victories like the scrapping of the women driving ban.

"Allowing women to drive is the biggest PR win that Saudi Arabia - and Prince Mohammed - could have in a single swoop", said Jane Kinninmont, of London-based think tank Chatham House.

In a royal decree, the monarch directed minister of interior to constitute a high-level ministerial committee to carry out studies about the necessary arrangements to implement the royal decree. The US-raised Saudi citizen worked with various ministries in Riyadh before returning to the States in 2017.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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