Saudi Arabia Steps Out of the Stone Age and Allows Women to Drive

Saudi Arabia Steps Out of the Stone Age and Allows Women to Drive

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has decided to allow women to drive, a Saudi official confirms to CBS News.

The country's Shura council was considering the issue, but King Salman made the final call, CBS News White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan reports.

While women in other Muslim countries drove freely, Saudi Arabia attracted negative publicity for years. Neither Islamic law nor Saudi traffic law explicitly prohibited women from driving, but they were not issued licenses and were detained if they attempted to drive.

"Women are half our population. They are a capable half of our population. Without them we cannot move forward," Prince Khaled bin Salman, the new Saudi ambassador to the U.S., told reporters Tuesday. He declared there is "no wrong time to do the right thing."

"Women are allowed to drive however they decide to," Khalid said, explaining that women do not need to get permission from males to drive and they do not need guardianship with them to drive.

"The pace of change has changed," Khalid said of his country, noting its youth and vibrancy. "I think our leadership understands our society is ready."

The decree indicated that women will not be allowed to drive immediately. A committee will be formed to look into how to implement the new order, which is slated to take effect in June 2018.

For years, the kingdom has incrementally granted women more rights and visibility, including participation in the Olympic Games in London and Rio, positions on the country's top consultative council and the right to run and vote in local elections in 2015.

Despite these openings, Saudi women remain largely subject to the whims of men due to guardianship laws, which bar them from obtaining a passport, traveling abroad or marrying without the consent of a male relative. Women who attempt to flee abusive families have also faced imprisonment or been forced into shelters.

 

Read more from CBS News here

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