In a historic win for the Saudi Arabian feminist movement, women in Saudi Arabia have won the right to drive.
In a royal decree issued Tuesday, the Saudi Arabian monarchy announced that the ban preventing women from driving will be lifted. A committee has been assembled to determine how the lifting of the ban will be introduced and enforced within the next 30 days, and have until June of 2018 to fully implement the decree.
The royal decree issued is believed to be part of a plan to improve the Saudi Arabian economy by increasing women’s participation in the work force. In a statement, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described the lifting of the driving ban as a “huge step toward a brighter future.”
Prior to the announcement on Tuesday, Saudi Arabian women’s freedom and independence has been crippled by the driving ban. Women could only travel if they were with a chaperone or chauffeur prevents them from fully participating in Saudi Arabian society and economy.
This monumental step forward for women would not have been possible without the brave feminist activists in Saudi Arabia who have been driving illegally for years to protest the driving ban. As early as 1990, women in Saudi Arabia have risked arrest by driving to bring attention to the ban and its effect on women’s lives.
Women such as Manal al-Sharif, who posted a viral video of herself driving in 2011, have brought Western media attention to the strict limitation on women’s freedom in Saudi Arabia. Al Sharif was arrested shortly after the video went viral.
Al Sharif, who now lives in Australia, went on to start the Women2Drive campaign which fought to end the driving ban on women, among other initiatives for gender equality in Saudi Arabia. In a tweet after the announcement was made, al-Sharif stated “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop.”
Media Resources: The New York Times 9/26/17; CNN 9/27/17; BBC 9/27/17; Feminist Campus 6/22/17