Saudi Arabian women can now drive. The fact that they were previously banned from getting a driver’s license sounds absolutely outrageous.
It came as a surprise when King Salman Abdul-Aziz Al Saud issued a decree saying women would be allowed behind the wheel starting June 2017. Interpretation to this unprecedented Royal decree is varied.
The oil rich state is governed by Islamic Sharia law which is in effect its constitution. A traditionally conservative stance has been the route used to curb women empowerment on many aspects of their daily life. For instance a female has to be in the company of a related male guardian or spouse when leaving the home.
Such laws, prohibitions and outright bans are passed and adhered to strictly. Violators face serious punishments for any breaches.
Law enforcement is there to ensure that strict codes are followed by women at all times. Incidences where a woman is found wanting in regards to this has some undesirable consequences. Religious police have been known to harass and even arrest offenders on sight.
With this repressive environment few women have dared to go defy these laws. Public shows of defiance are met with stern action where the perpetrator is in for detention or jail time depending on the incidence.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to change its image as one of the most regressive societies in the world. Human Rights Watch has been at the forefront of campaigning against the fundamental rights that its women are denied.
Change can be a strong motivation that can bear down on the society’s hardliner stance. As a product of many years of lobbying, public defiance and activism some headway has been realized.
Council of Senior Scholars
This flexibility was in part a product of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious group. Their viewpoint was that this ban had to be removed after much deliberation and consideration. Law making has to be in line with Sharia Law such that there is no inconsistency or violation. Thanks to this highly esteemed group, women will be allowed to transport themselves freely.
There are plenty of growth opportunities when prohibitive legislation on women has been lifted. Both genders are able to be work and support each other on the economic front. This could have been the impetus behind the change.
As the second largest oil producing nation in the world, it is an absolute pleasure to have heavily subsidized gasoline. Women will work towards owning their own car and get to enjoy the modern day privileges that people take for granted.
Equity and inclusion
Women’s right is a complex and layered issue in Saudi Arabia. Many of its prohibitive laws are not specifically encoded in religious texts. Interpretation by leaders and powerful conservative clerics is seen as the main challenge towards women empowerment.
Bold amendments such as the one laid out by the King form a precedent on which other future leaders will follow. There is so much yet to be addressed but thankfully advancements such as these are very much appreciated at home and across the borders.