From visiting soccer players being forced to cut their hair, to a viral video of a woman wearing a miniskirt leading to her arrest, the predominantly Muslim nation of Saudi Arabia is famous for its strict social practices. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the country’s longstanding practice of banning women from legally driving on its roads — let alone preventing them from additional public, practical activities otherwise accepted as normal in the United States and other Western nations. Yet this changed on Tuesday when the royal government issued a decree overturning the ban.
According to the New York Times, the change in policy “will take effect in June of next year,” per per an “[announcement] on state television and in a simultaneous media event in Washington.” Considered the “birthplace of Islam,” the country’s official state religion decrees the monarchy rules by Shariah law:
Some said that it was inappropriate in Saudi culture for women to drive, or that male drivers would not know how to handle women in cars next to them. Others argued that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family. One cleric claimed — with no evidence — that driving harmed women’s ovaries.
Tuesday’s announcement, and the decision informing it, apparently had less to do with progressive reforms in Saudi Arabia and more to do with “the damage that the no-driving policy has done to the kingdom’s international reputation.” The royal leaders reportedly hope there will ultimately be a “public relations benefit from the reform.”
(Via New York Times)