Rights groups welcome Saudi decree ending driving ban on women

A royal decree allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive for the first time has been welcomed by rights groups.

The order issued by King Salman is to be implemented by June next year.

In the decree, King Salman spoke of the “negative consequences of not allowing women to drive” and “the positive aspects of allowing it”.

The kingdom has long been the only state in the world where women are prohibited from driving, and the ban has been the subject of extensive protests in and outside the country.

For twenty-five years women in the kingdom have campaigned for the right to drive. Some have even risked imprisonment secretly defying the law.

King Salman has ended a ban on women driving in #SaudiArabia where Manal Al Sharif went to jail for it pic.twitter.com/zZVIY8qhIg— The Economist (@TheEconomist) September 26, 2017

Because of the law only allowing men to drive, many families have had to employ private drivers to help transport female relatives.

One government spokesman said the change which will have angered some influential clerics, was as much about economic reform as social change.

In Saudi Arabia, women are legally subject to a male guardian, who must give approval to basic decisions they make in fields including education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.

Women in the kingdom are also bound by law to wear long robes and a headscarf and require the consent of a male guardian for most legal actions.

Many Saudis regard the younger generation of Royals as wanting to cultivate a more modern image of the country.

Last week women were allowed to participate in National Day celebrations for the first time.

The US State Department which supports strong ties with Saudi Arabia said the new decree was a step in the right direction.
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