For female activists and activists of women’s rights, the recent lift on the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia has been a victory. Until now, women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined.
Praise has been felt and heard from all over the world as the move to lift the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia has made headlines. The Saudi King Salman’s decision was issued by royal decree, according to a court statement. “The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike.” The decree remits that a ministerial body be formed to give advice on the realities of the policy within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018.
Women2Drive Movement: Testing of Limits
For female activists, the recent lift on the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia has been a victory. Certainly for Manal al-Sharif, a female activist in Saudi Arabia, who publicly pushed boundaries concerning a woman’s right to drive and started the Women2Drive Movement. Interviewed for a news article titled How I Got There: Manal al-Sharif, Manal spoke about being inspired to create a video in May 2011 which launched the Women2Drive Movement. The movement was created to encourage women with international driving licenses to go out and drive on June 17. Receiving death and rape threats after uploading her video, as many as 700,000 people viewed her video on the first day. In the article, Manal noted that on June 17, a number of women participated in the movement and not a single one was arrested. According to Manal, ultimately, the purpose of the movement was to demand that women be drivers of their own destinies, to be seen as citizens, and to bring an end to guardianship in Saudi Arabia.
Changes in Women’s Rights
Where half the population is under 25 years old and 70 percent under 35, women’s rights are key to social and economic reform in the country. The move to lift the ban on driving for women is one of the recent changes, and arguably the most dramatic, implemented by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Earlier this year, another key reform was the announcement that girls will be allowed to play sports in public schools and be able to access physical education.
With plenty of people rejoicing and celebrating the push for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, there are many that are still opposed to these changes. Although women will be able to be issued licenses, there is no telling how that will actually play out for them as guardianship laws still govern Saudi Arabian women and limit their freedom.