An official decree has been announced by King Salman that will give women the ability to hold a driver’s license in the country for the first time in the nation’s history. The order includes the formation of a ministerial body that will be responsible for implementing the rule change by 2018.
As reported by the Daily Mail, Saudi Arabia will be the last country to give women the right to drive, having been the only nation that strictly prohibited women from possessing a driver’s license.
“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” said the Saudi Press Agency.”
The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US also confirmed women would not have to obtain permission from their male guardians to apply for a license.
US State Department officials said the agency was pleased with the decision, referring to it as a “huge step in the right direction.”
The decree comes after years of campaigning within the country as well as notable pressure from the larger international community, especially since the nation was elected to the United Nations women’s rights commission. Many expressed concerns about that decision due to Saudi Arabia’s previous actions towards its female citizens.
King Salman’s order signals an end to the restrictive practice under which some women were jailed for attempting to drive in Saudi Arabia.
In 2014, Loujain al-Hathloul, a 27-year-old female activist, was arrested and detained for 73 days after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from neighboring United Arab Emirates.
She was again arrested this year after arriving at King Fahad International Airport, though no official reason for her detainment was provided.
Women in Saudi Arabia are required to be under the care of a male guardian for their entire lives. These men make various decisions on their behalf.
Additionally, women cannot leave the house without a male accompanying them, are separated from the men during prayers and public meetings, and must be covered at all times when in public.
It is not currently clear if King Salman’s recent decree marks the beginning of fewer restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia. In 2015, women were given the ability to vote in municipal elections for the first time, marking another historic moment for the nation.