For the first time in history, Saudi Arabian women have been granted the right to drive cars.
According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), a royal order was issued for both men and women to be issued drivers’ licenses.
Government ministries are to prepare reports within 30 days and the order will be implemented by June 2018.
“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike,” SPA said.
Prior to this, the west Asian kingdom was the only the country in the world where women were barred from driving.
Women’s rights activists since the 1990s have been pushing for the right to drive, saying it represents their larger struggle for equal rights under the law.
In 2011, Manal al-Sharif, a woman rights activist, was arrested for breaking the law. She filmed herself cruising behind the wheel of a car and uploaded the video to YouTube.
After her release, al-Sharif was even more determined to speak out for Saudi women’s rights. Her passion led her to write a memoir, Daring to Drive: a Saudi Woman’s Awakening.
“My society is very conservative. Women are treated as minors who need protection and permission of men for almost everything,” al-Sharif said.
When cars came to Saudi Arabia, society accepted the norm that women do not drive.
“On November 6, 1990, 47 women tried to break that norm by driving. But at that time, the religious establishment was angry over arrival of western troops in Saudi Arabia in the wake of first Iraq war. They directed all their anger against these women drivers calling them a bad influence.
“They were denounced as immoral women out to destroy Saudi society.Two days after the protest, the Saudi grand mufti issued a decree that driving by women was un-Islamic. The official argument: Women who drive will become immoral.”