Text of Saudi king's royal decree on women driving

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced that women in the kingdom will be allowed to drive vehicles for the first time next summer.

The royal decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018, according to state news agency SPA.

The strict rules in the Islamic country were enforced despite neither Islamic or Saudi law explicitly prohibiting women from driving.

The change will not be implemented immediately as the kingdom has no infrastructure for women to learn to drive or obtain drivers licenses.

The lifting of the ban was hailed as a watershed event for reform activists, who had been demanding reforms in the Kingdom for quite some time.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive.

Women in Saudi Arabia will continue to be subject to a guardianship system that forces them to seek permission from male relatives to do everything from opening a bank account to travelling.

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"In order to change women's participation in the workforce we need them to be able to drive to work", said bin Salman, who is a son of the current king and a brother of the crown prince.

Men and women danced in the streets to drums and electronic music, in scenes that were a stunning novelty in a country known for its tight gender segregation and austere vision of Islam. However, the kingdom's blanket ban has over the years attracted negative publicity.

Over the years, conservative religious leaders with pull across all parts of Saudi life have said that allowing women to drive contradicts Sharia law, and encourages sinful behaviour.

"It is unbelievable", al-Bakr, a Saudi university professor, told the Times.

For decades, the ban has been opposed by women in the country, and in 1990, a widespread protest saw 47 women jailed for defying the ban.

The resolution was welcomed by the United States as a positive and historic step.

He told USA reporters: "This is the right time to do the right thing". Among many other women, Manal al-Sharif, an Aramco employee at the time and an activist, dared to drive in eastern Saudi Arabia with Wajiha al-Howeider, a veteran feminist, who recorded the incident for circulation on social media.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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