New Delhi, June 24: As Saudi Arabia lifted its longstanding ban on women driving, ladies can now legally get behind the wheel of a car for the first time beginning today. The religiously conservative kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, started issuing its first driving licences for female motorists earlier this month, as per Al Jazeera. Also Read - International Flights: Nepal to Resume Services From Tomorrow, Domestic Flights From July 1
The move was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last September, who aims to reform the country. Women’s rights activists welcomed the move but claimed that there were still many hindrances for women wanting to get behind the wheel. Also Read - Hajj Pilgrimage This Year To Be Limited To 60,000 People, Saudi Issues Fresh Order
“The fees for having lessons are six times more than men. This is one of the restrictions and this makes women not being able to access driving licenses in a fast way, in addition to the limited driving schools in Saudi Arabia,” Al Jazeera quoted Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East consultant for the Equality Now non-governmental organisation as saying. Also Read - 'Girls Should Not be Given Phones as it Leads to Rapes': UP Women's Commission Member Meena Kumari
However, special driving schools have been set up for women. Car showrooms are filled with female buyers, and events are being held in Riyadh to encourage these new female drivers.
Hiring women is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to overhaul its economy, known as Vision 2030. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. When the decision to lift the ban was announced last September, many women reacted with joy, hailing the new capacity it would give them to work, grow their own businesses and explore the kingdom — although many other restrictions on women’s everyday lives remain in place.
Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that bans the mixing of sexes at public events and places numerous curbs on women, including needing the permission of a male guardian to marry, work or travel.
While there has been some loosening of restrictions in recent months, rights groups say much more remains to be done.