It’s hard to believe that in this day and age women are forbidden from driving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Well, that’s finally set to change as the oil-rich country’s leader, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, on Tuesday issued a decree to lift the asinine ban which was introduced when the Kingdom was established in 1932.
Saudi women shouldn’t run out and fire up their cars just yet. The decree isn’t due to be implemented until June 24, 2018.
Currently, only men are allowed behind the wheel. That hasn’t stopped some women from challenging the ban, however, albeit at the risk of being fined or even arrested.
As you can imagine, the arguments supporting the ban are as stupid as the ban itself. Proponents say its lifting “will only bring sin” and that the “evils it would bring—mixing between the genders, temptations, and tarnishing the reputation of devout Muslim women—outweigh the benefits."
So what’s prompting the change? While Saudi officials will want you to believe it’s purely out of the benevolence of the country’s rulers, the reasons are more likely to be economic in nature.
It’s well known that Saudi coffers are running low these days due to low oil prices and increased competition from other oil producers. The country has been forced to borrow money to meet its budget which is vital for keeping the populace happy via generous social programs.
To turn the country away from its dependence on oil revenues, incoming leader Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is keen to make Saudi Arabia more attractive to foreigners under a plan known as Vision 2030, and the lifting of the ban is seen as a key step in putting a more positive sheen on a country known for its draconian, dictatorship-level polices.
The lifting of the ban will also mean that hundreds of thousands of guest workers—believed to total close to 800,000—hired as chauffeurs for the country’s women won’t be needed, helping to keep more money in the local economy.