Announced Tuesday, Saudi Arabia will now be allowing women to operate a vehicle, nevertheless the change won’t take effect until June of 2018. Coming on the heels of a wide reform program that also allowed women to enter sports stadiums a week ago, King Salman announced in an elegant decree that drivers licenses could be issued to women who wanted them.
Cheering on the change, US officials also welcomed the decree.
”We would certainly welcome that,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a great step in the right direction for that country.”
Per Saudi State News agency SPA, the decree triggered government ministries to prepare a report within 30 days before it is to be implemented.
“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” the agency reported.
Officials in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, have in the past offered numerous explanations to ban women from getting behind the steering wheel.
According to the New York Times, some excuses included that the act itself was just inappropriate and that men would simply be unable to wrap their heads around a woman driving. Another suggested that it would lead to promiscuity and the sudden collapse of the Saudi family.
Back in May, the country’s most senior cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh reignited protests surrounding the ban after claiming that exposing women to driving would be a ‘dangerous matter’ and that it would make it impossible for families to keep track of their female relatives.
Women in the Kingdom have been barred from driving since the late 1970s, the Daily Beast reported.