Saudi girls driving ban is ending: What you must know


For the primary time in its historical past, girls will be capable to drive themselves legally by way of the ultra-conservative kingdom’s streets.

The landmark step is the fruits of years of activism and appeals from inside and outdoors the Gulf nation. However, whereas a welcome improvement, activists say the battle for girls’s rights is much from over.

The transfer comes as a part of a collection of sweeping social and financial reforms referred to as Imaginative and prescient 2030. Initiated over the previous two years, the reforms have been spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The top of the driving ban will enable many extra girls to join the workforce, a key purpose for the Crown Prince. Till now, many Saudi girls have needed to make use of male drivers, one thing that eats into their salaries and is prohibitive for some.
A royal decree was issued in September announcing the end of the ban in June 2018. Since then, the dominion has been readying itself for a historic shift that may deliver it into line with the remainder of the world.

Earlier this month, the dominion issued its first driver’s licenses to 10 Saudi girls in alternate for licenses they’d acquired whereas overseas.

In January, ride-hailing functions Uber and Careem mentioned they had been recruiting female drivers for when the ban lifts.
A woman tries a driving simulator at a government-organized road safety event at Riyadh Park Mall in the Saudi capital on Thursday.

What is the background to this?

The lifting of the driving ban comes 28 years after Saudi girls first took to the streets of the capital, Riyadh, to protest for the correct to drive. The 47 Saudi girls who drove in a motorcade by way of the town had been all arrested, and the nation’s highest non secular physique issued an edict banning feminine driving, including what had been a customary ban to the authorized code.

The a long time that adopted the 1990 Riyadh protest had been peppered with actions to raise the ban, however they got here to a head across the time of the Arab Spring in 2011. A social-media marketing campaign known as Women2Drive culminated in activist Manal al-Sharif posting a video of herself driving within the Saudi metropolis of Khobar on YouTube — a transfer that landed her in jail. She now lives in Australia.

Different activists additionally emerged on the forefront of the motion. Loujain al-Hathloul was detained for 73 days in 2014 after making an attempt to drive from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia. Eman al-Nafjan, a well known blogger, drove in Riyadh in 2013 as a part of a protest that attracted worldwide consideration. Aziza al-Yousef, who’s 70, was one of many nation’s earliest activists for the correct to drive and signed a petition in recent times calling for an finish to guardianship legal guidelines.

All three had been arrested final month in a sweep that targeted women’s rights groups, casting doubt on the Crown Prince’s much-touted reform effort. The federal government’s defenders mentioned the transfer was essential to quell conservative dissent on June 24. Analysts instructed CNN the arrests had been an try to deprive the activists of credit score for the lifting of the ban.

The crackdown got here on the heels of bin Salman’s month-long tour of Western international locations, the place he was billed as a modernizer spearheading change.

What different rights have Saudi girls gained?

Over the previous 12 months, Saudi Arabia has opened its first cinema in a long time and loosened a number of morality legal guidelines that discriminate in opposition to girls, together with its infamous guidelines requiring that ladies obtain a male guardian’s permission to journey, obtain an schooling and generally work and obtain well being care.

The dominion additionally introduced that Saudi mothers would now be able to retain custody of their kids after divorce with out submitting lawsuits. In doing so, it broke ranks with a number of different international locations within the area that closely favor male guardianship.
Ladies are additionally now permitted to attend sure sporting occasions.
In 2015 girls cast ballots for the first time ever throughout municipal elections, a vote by which they had been additionally allowed to marketing campaign for public workplace. However feminine candidates weren’t allowed to talk to male voters and could not have women and men mixing of their marketing campaign places of work.
At the least 17 girls had been elected in the course of the 2015 municipal vote. The late King Abdullah issued a decree in 2011 that gave girls the vote and two years later, ordered that no less than 20% of seats within the Consultative Council be put aside for girls.
Female Saudi soccer fans attend a match at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on January 12.

What rights do Saudi girls nonetheless not have?

Saudi Arabia, which adheres to among the strictest interpretations of Sunni Islam on the planet, has lengthy been accused of formal authorized discrimination in opposition to girls.

Mohammed bin Salman is on a make or break mission
Ladies nonetheless are beholden to restrictive guardianship laws that govern practically each side of their lives, regardless of current strikes to ease them. In instances the place a lady’s father is deceased or absent, her husband, a male family member, brother, or in some cases, even a son, should give his approval earlier than a lady can receive usually fundamental entitlements.
Saudi girls nonetheless can’t combine freely with members of the alternative intercourse. Some exceptions embody hospitals, banks and medical colleges. In addition they can’t seem in public with out sporting a full-length black abaya, a free gown meant to protect women’s modesty in public.
Rights group Amnesty Worldwide on Thursday welcomed the lifting of the driving ban as “a long-overdue small step in the correct route” however mentioned it “should now be adopted by reforms to end a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices,” together with an finish to the guardianship system.

The group additionally highlighted the plight of rights activists who stay imprisoned following final month’s crackdown and will face trial earlier than the nation’s counterterrorism court docket.

“It’s outrageous that ladies are nonetheless handled like second-class residents in Saudi Arabia,” it mentioned. “If Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman actually believes himself to be a reformer, he ought to free the ladies’s rights activists, and embody activists and civil society members in Saudi Arabia’s reform course of.”

CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Jamie Tarabay contributed to this report.

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