Breaking! Saudi women can now drive

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Six years after about 40 Saudi women defied their country’s laws, and one of them was sentenced to 10 lashes on its account, the Kingdom has given the nod for the feminine gender to drive cars.

It is a major victory for women and human rights activists in the only country in the world with the strict law concerning the female gender.

The new position was announced on Tuesday, both on national television and at a public forum in Washington DC, United States.

The news sent Twitter agog.

The change will, however, not be immediate.

 It highlights the damage that the policy has done to the kingdom’s international reputation and its hopes for a public relations benefit from the reform.

Campaigners have for many years argued that women should be allowed to drive, saying that it makes virtual prisoners out of women who do not have a male family member or chauffeur to drive them around.

In June 2011, about 40 women got behind the wheel and drove in several cities in a protest sparked when Manal Sharif, one of the founders of the movement, was arrested and detained for 24 hours after posting a video of herself driving.

Another was arrested and sentenced to 10 lashes – a sentence later overturned by the king – and the rest were told to sign statements guaranteeing they would not drive again.

In October 2013, shortly after a prominent cleric claimed that medical studies showed driving damaged a woman’s ovaries, 60 women took part in a protest, driving in spite of warnings from the authorities.

 In response, 150 clerics staged a demonstration outside the royal palace. The ministry warned against marches or gatherings under the pretext of the driving campaign. It said those “disturbing public peace” will be dealt with firmly.

 

But since then resistance to women driving has ebbed somewhat.

The movement gained prominence with the rise in power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a 32-year-old son of the king. who has laid out a far-reaching plan to reform the kingdom’s economy and society.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia, hit by the fall of oil prices, is aware of the economic contribution that women could make.

  • Additional reports from //www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-women-drive.html?emc=edit_na_20170926&nl=breaking-news&nlid=67583210&ref=cta

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