(MENAFN - NewsBytes)
Saudi Arabia lifts decades-old ban on women driving
24 Jun 2018
Saudi Arabia became the last country in the world to allow women to drive by overturning a decades-old ban on female motorists today.
The lifting of the ban is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reform drive to modernize the conservative petro-state.
"It's a historic moment for every Saudi-woman," Sabika al-Dosari, a television presenter who drove minutes after the ban was lifted, said.
Now, women no more depend on male guardians
The move is expected to be transformative for many women, freeing them from their dependence on private chauffeurs or male relatives and resulting in big family savings. "Those days of waiting long-hours for a driver is over," Hatoun bin Dakhil, a 21-year-old pharmacy student said.
Female driving schools have cropped up in Saudi
The kingdom started issuing driving licenses to women earlier this month.
According to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, around 3mn women could receive licenses and actively begin driving by 2020.
Besides, a handful of female driving schools have cropped up in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah.
The move is expected to boost women's employment and add $90 billion to economic output by 2030, said Bloomberg.
Hardliners cited Islamic interpretations to justify ban on women driving
For decades, hardliners cited austere Islamic interpretations to justify the driving ban, with some asserting that women lack the intelligence to drive and that lifting it would promote promiscuity.
Many women fear they are still easy prey for conservatives in a nation where male "guardians" such as their fathers, husbands or other relatives, can exercise arbitrary authority to make decisions on their behalf.
Prince Mohammed has also lifted ban on cinema, mixed-gender concerts
Earlier, Prince Mohammed has also lifted a ban on cinemas and mixed-gender concerts.
The government has pre-emptively addressed concerns of abuse by outlawing sexual harassment, with a prison term of up to 5-years and a maximum penalty of $80,000.
But the Prince's reforms appear to have been dented by a sweeping crackdown on women activists who long opposed the driving ban.
Crackdown on women activists is a mistake: Prince's followers
Authorities have said that nine of 17 arrested people remain in prison, accused of undermining the kingdom's security and aiding enemies of the state.
The state-backed newspapers have published front-page pictures of some of the activists, the word "traitor" stamped across them in red.
Reportedly, some of the prince's ardent supporters have also labeled the crackdown a 'mistake'.