Earlier this year, the ultra-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced it would lift the ban on women driving. The officials said Saudi women will be able to drive cars said from June 2018, and it turns out they will he allowed to drive motorcycles and drive trucks as well.
The Saudi government formed a committee to determine how to implement the recently passed royal decree, which was seen a step in the right direction.
Just recently, the Saudi general directorate of traffic gave details of the new regulations that will follow the lifting of the ban, claiming that women drivers won't be discriminated against.
“Yes, we will authorize women to drive motorcycles as well as trucks," the statement said, adding the royal decree stipulates the law on driving will be “equal” for both men and women.
It also clarified women will not be issued any distinctive license plates. This apparently means the Kingdom is apparently going to undo its regular practice of discriminating against women.
However, as Saudi Arabia adheres to one of the most puritanical strains of Islam, there exist many other oppressive laws that may not be as visible as the driving ban.
A rather dismal list compiled by the CNN reveals the lives of women in the monarchy are dictated by the whims of their male guardians, who in many instances are their sons or younger brothers.
For instance, women cannot marry, divorce or even undergo elective surgery without the permission of their male guardians.
In Saudi courts, the testimony of a man equals to two women. Following a divorce, Saudi women can also not retain custody of their children once they reach a certain age.
There are countless other laws, for example one prohibiting women from eating in restaurants that do not have a “family section,” which inhibit Saudi women in their daily lives.
Many of these laws can be justified by the legal status of women in Saudi courts, which equals that of a minor. The legal status therefore deprives women of their agency regarding their lives.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has finally begun to budge from some of its most rigid stances. This reassessment of laws is tied to the kingdom’s pledge to “return” to a more moderate Islam, keeping with the wishes of its international allies.
However, the way this return is orchestrated may fall victim to tokenism, with only the most visibly oppressive laws being reversed. Other laws may continue to undermine women in sinister ways.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Faisal Al Nasser