Saudi Arabia just passed a royal decree that will allow Saudi Women to drive, which is a privilege women in this country never had before. While this is considered a landmark decree, which is finally allowing Saudi women behind the wheel of a car, it will look much different than it does in the countries where women drive.
The Saudi women will be able to take the driver seat starting next summer, as this new royal decree is slated to be officially in place by June of 2018. It is not as if they can start gassing up their cars today, but again this is a major change for women in this country.
So what will it be like for a woman in Saudi Arabia when she can officially get behind the wheel of a car? It won’t resemble scenes that play out across the U.S. on a daily basis where the woman of the household grabs the keys and shuffles out to the car on her way to pick up a quick gallon of milk or drop the kids off at school. Many of the households in Saudi Arabia will require women to ask for permission first.
Many of the women in Saudi Arabia need permission from a male in their family to leave the house, never mind getting behind the wheel of a car. Whether that permission comes from their father, brother, or husband, in many Saudi households today there is still a male family member in charge of a Saudi woman’s life. This new decree that gives the Saudi women the privilege of driving doesn’t change the Islamic laws of guardianship over women, as many women will need permission from a male relative to buy a car to enjoy their new driving privilege.
According to Fox News, “Under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Islamic law, a male guardianship system bars women from traveling abroad, obtaining a passport, marrying or even leaving prison without the consent of a male relative.” For many of the Saudi women, this Islamic law also means they cannot embark on some of the venues that they will come across in life without the permission of a male relative.
Many women need a male’s permission to do take certain steps in life that include attempting to rent an apartment, open a bank account, buy a car, take a job, or even undergo surgery and other medical procedures. As Fox News suggests, the Saudi women are “practically assigned to the status of a minor their entire lives.”
One thing they won’t need permission to do is to obtain their driver’s license. According to the New York Times, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador conveyed that “women would be able to obtain driver’s licenses without having to ask permission of their husbands, fathers or any male guardian.” This is the case despite the guardianship laws that “give men power over their female relatives.”
According to CNN News, Saudi Arabia is “finally allowing almost half its population to get behind the wheel.” Many in Washington see this as a step in the right direction.
While Saudi Arabia does have a way to go when it comes to women’s rights, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sees this as “an important step in the right direction.” Guterres sent his thoughts out in a tweet once he heard the news. Heather Nauert, who is a State Department spokesperson said the US “would certainly welcome that (news).”
[Featured Image by Hassan Ammar/AP Images]