Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has released a royal decree making it legal for women to drive for the first time, according to BBC news.
Rights and women groups and activists celebrated this historical victory for Saudi women, one they had been fighting for decades. The move was praised all over the world, including by the US state department, which called it "a great step in the right direction." BBC reports that until now, “only men were allowed licenses and women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined.”
A massive change for Saudi society, the decree will be implemented by June 24, 2018. Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador, Prince Khaled bin Salman, said that women won’t need male permission to take driving lessons, and will be able to drive “anywhere they liked.” He said it was "an historic and big day" and "the right decision at the right time". According to BBC news reporter Frank Gardner, “this decree is in line with a program called Vision 2030, promoted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, to modernize Saudi society and bring it more into line with the rest of the world.”
Over the last years, many activists had faced detention for defying the ban, as Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that banned women from driving.
Despite the latest development, many people still emphasize that Saudi Arabia remains a long way off gender equality. Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director said it was "just one step," adding: "We also need to see a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices swept away in Saudi Arabia."
Saudi women are subject to many restrictions and segregation rules, including a very strict dress code, not associating with males outside the family, and having male permission for traveling, working or accessing healthcare.