The end of the Saudi ban on women driving.

A reversal of a controversial rule that banned female drivers from getting behind the wheel has been lifted following a decree from King Salman on Tuesday. Because of this decision, women who want to drive can now apply for licences without permission from a legal guardian and will be allowed to drive independently without a male guardian with them.

The world views this as a clear step forward for a somewhat draconian state. The announcement came soon after a senior cleric was banned from preaching for claiming that women have a brain the quarter of the size as men when distracted by shopping so should not be able to drive. 

Some Islamic scholars argue that the lifting of the ban will go against Saudi principles, as independent driving is far more likely to result in contact with unrelated men going against the country’s gender segregation principles because of the state religion of Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative strain of Islam.

The independence that Saudi Women will receive as a result of being able to drive is a clear step in the right direction to reduce discrimination in the draconian state. This cornerstone being passed is reflective of changing attitudes in Saudi Arabia due to greater influence from the west and pressures from groups who have been campaigning for change for several years.
Reforms for the rights of Saudi Women are improving.

Earlier this September, the state made provision to allow women access to sports stadiums to the first time showing that the issues of sexual discrimination and a lack of human rights are slowly improving as attitudes change. In addition to this in 2015, women could vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections for the first time showing an improving role in democracy. Furthermore, in the 2016 Olympic games, four women represented Saudi Arabia which shows improvement on women’s independence, however, all four of these individuals trained outside of the country in which they compete for as sports clubs are banned for women in the kingdom and some harsh critics declared these athletes as harlots.

Saudi Arabia is moving in the right direction but there is still a long way to go with the male guardianship system still strictly enforced. All women are expected to have a “wali.” This is a male guardian, typically their father, brother or husband. And their wali must be present for any major activity such as travelling, signing contracts and for marriage.

Recent reforms from King Salman now allow women to undertake some activities such as entering university, taking a job and undergoing medical care without a guardian. Again, there is improvement but there is still a long way to go for Saudi Arabia to lose its draconian label.