On the 24th of June 2018, Saudi Arabia finally allowed women the freedom to drive, and more than 120 000 Saudi women have already put in applications for driving licences.
This change is part of ‘Vision 2030’, a package of social and economic reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) designed to help modernise Saudi Arabia. Along with being allowed to drive, women have recently been granted the freedom to attend sporting and recreational events and have been given greater access to jobs.
But is this apparent move towards ‘female empowerment’ really that significant? There are other, more conservative forces in Saudi Arabia which are very much against these reforms: as recently as 2017 the Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, declared that driving was ‘a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil’, and the regime has also recently persecuted a number of feminist activists.
There’s also the fact that women still have the legal status of minors and need to permission of male guardians to study, travel, work or marry, so we’re still a long way off formal legal gender equality!
The Week, issue 1183.