Saudi Arabia to lift driving ban on women from June 24

Women in Saudi Arabia are taking cars for a trial spin at a new auto exhibition ahead of being legally allowed to drive once a ban is lifted next month.

RIYADH • Saudi women will be allowed to start driving in the kingdom from June 24, the General Department of Traffic Director General Mohammed al-Bassami has said.

"All the requirements for women in the kingdom to start driving have been established," Mr Bassami was quoted as saying in a statement released by the government yesterday.

Last September, a royal decree announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving - the only one of its kind in the world.

Mr Bassami said women aged 18 years and older will be allowed to apply for a driver's licence.

Driving schools for women have been set up across five cities in the conservative kingdom, and teachers will include Saudi women who have obtained their licences abroad.

Women with foreign driving licences will be able to apply for a local one through a separate process, which will also assess their driving skills.

"It is no secret that many women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hold driving licences from abroad," the statement added. Saudi women have previously petitioned the government for the ban to be lifted, and even taken to the wheel in protest.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, is seen as the force behind the lifting of the ban, part of reforms being pushed by the powerful member of the royal family.

His Vision 2030 reform plan for a post-oil era seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from about 22 per cent now.

The decision to allow women to drive could give them the much-needed mobility to join the workforce.

Saudi women now no longer need male permission to start a business.

But Saudi activists say social change will only be cosmetic without dismantling the kingdom's rigid guardianship system, which requires women to seek permission from a male relative to study, travel and conduct other activities.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Saudi Arabia to lift driving ban on women from June 24'. Print Edition | Subscribe