For the longest time, women in Saudi Arabia were never allowed to drive. But with the evolving society comes better changes, including equality. The New York Times have recently reported that the long-standing ban on women drivers have finally been lifted in Saudi Arabia, the same time Saudi state television, and a media event in Washington announced this.
You are probably wondering why a media event had to be done in Washington as well. This is because Saudi officials want more than just women’s rights, but they also plan to launch a PR campaign that takes away the focus of the country’s reputation for repressing women’s rights.
There are several reasons why women have been banned for the longest time. For instance, having a woman in a car next to a man will distract them. And there’s also the belieft that women who drive may lead to promiscuity and broken families. Furthermore, there was a Saudi cleric who stated that women shouldn’t drive as this will affect their ovaries, with no evidence. So it might take a little more than a PR campaign to convince everybody that Saudi Arabia has changed, and now treats men and women equally. Well, this is just the first step.
But for Saudi ladies, do not get too excited about this, especially if you have always dreamt of getting yourself a new Ferrari because you will have to wait a little longer. Yes, the ban has been lifted already, but this will not be effective until June 2018. The reason for this delay is because Saudi Arabia still has no infrastructure where women will be instructed or issued with their license just yet. Knowing what their culture is like, it is not really about the infrastructure but their culture. Because men and women can rarely interact in a country like that, and even a little interaction may cause some friction.
It has been quite some time since gender issues have been called for in Saudi Arabia. And that has come from within, notably with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. There is also some sort of economics involved in this, where men and women are being told to find better jobs by the government. And of course, if you cannot drive, that is one factor that could affect one’s chances of getting a job.
Saudi Arabia is actually the last country in the world to ban women from driving. We are hoping that with this move, as well as the PR campaign, people’s eyes around the world will be opened - regardless of age, gender, race, skin colour, religion, and orientation. And we hope that everybody realises that we are all equal, and no one shall be treated differently.