For The First Time, Women To Legally Drive In Saudi Arabia, 10 Driving Licenses Issued
June 8th, 2018
Image Credit: Indian Women Blog
With less than 3 weeks time left to lift the ban on women driving cars in Saudi Arabia, a group of ten women became the first to be issued driving licenses. However, it is important to note that most of the activists protesting for the ban to be lifted are still in jail and facing trial.
These ten women were subjected to a brief test behind the wheel and an eye-test before they were handed over the license by Riyadh Traffic Force. They were selected among the thousands who had applied. Others will get theirs after June 24, the day the ban will be lifted. Many women are opting for driving courses on female-only college campuses. Teachers were roped in from abroad to cater to the high demand. Saudi Arabia was the only country till September 2017 that had the regressive law which barred women from driving.
The credit for the change has been given to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has positioned himself as a reformer determined to return the country to “moderate Islam” and transform its moribund, oil-dependent economy. He also pledged to get more women into the workforce, and committed to a range of other changes, most recently allowing new cinemas to be played after 35 years, and other entertainment.
A sense of freedom
Some of these women want to become Uber drivers after they get their license. For long, these women have been complaining about spending money on hiring costly male drivers, use taxis or depend on male relatives for driving.
In a country, where public transport is still not great, being able to drive gives a sense of freedom to these women who have been subjected to such regressive laws. “Driving, to me, represents having a choice: the choice of independent movement,” Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst at the Ministry of Economy and Planning and one of the first ten women given licenses, told the government media center, reported The Guardian.
Saudi Arabia never made a law that banned women from driving, they had a ban against giving them driving licenses. If a woman was caught behind the wheels, she would be detained under and unless a male relative comes and signs a pledge that she will not drive anymore.
Women are not allowed to take many decisions in Saudi Arabia without the permission of a male relative, be it marriage or travel. In a progressive world, these regressive laws not only make the country look bad but also slows down their growth. Many activists are still in jail who challenged the driving ban. On Nov 30, 2014, a video was released by Loujain al-Hathloul, which showed her defying the ban and driving towards the UAE- Saudi Arabia border. She was arrested and it has been four years and she is still in jail. She is one of the four women currently held in detention. On 1990, 50 Saudi women were held for being the first to be protesting against the driving ban. All the 50 women were arrested, shunned by society. They lost their jobs and had their passports confiscated. While The Logical Indian appreciates the move, we sincerely hope that other such backward laws and rules are disposed of in Saudi Arabia.