External Affairs

King Salman Issues Decree Allowing Women in Saudi Arabia to Drive

The new rules will be effective from June 2018.

Screenshot of the homepage of Al-Yaum newspaper in Saudi Arabia announcing the news: Issuing a special order to adopt the provisions of the Traffic Regulations and its executive regulations, including issuance of driving licenses for males and females. Credit: TW

In a major reform move, King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday decreed that women in the kingdom would henceforth be allowed to drive cars. The announcement was made by the country’s official media and quickly relayed to the world by the Saudi foreign ministry via Twitter:

The royal decree ordered the formation of an inter-ministerial body – interior affairs, labour, social development and finance – to study the “arrangement for enforcement”. The new rules will be implemented with effect from June 23, 2018.

The decree stipulates that the move will be “in accordance with the approved Sharia and regulations” and noted that a majority of Islamic scholars had backed the move.

Saudi Arabia’s official press agency SPA released the full text of the decree:

We refer to the negative consequences of not allowing women to drive vehicles and the positive aspects of allowing it to do so, taking into consideration the application of the necessary legal controls and adherence to them.

We also refer to what the majority of the council of senior scholars agreed to, which is that the Islamic rule in regards to women driving is to allow it, and that those who have opposed it have done so citing excuses that are baseless and have no predominance of thought. The scholars see no reason not to allow women to drive as long as there are legal and regulatory guarantees to avoid the pretexts (that those against women driving had in mind), even if they are unlikely to happen.

The state is – with the help of God – guardian of the values and of legitimacy, it has the duty of preservation and care in the list of priorities, whether in this matter or another, and will not hesitate to do all that is needed to maintain the security and safety of society.

We adopt the application of the provisions of the Traffic Law and its Executive Regulations – including the issuance of driving licenses – to both males and females, and to form a high-level committee of ministries of (internal affairs, finance, labor and social development) to study the necessary arrangements for enforcement; the implementation shall be – God willing – as of 10/10/1439 AH, in accordance with the approved Sharia and regulations and completion of what is required by it.

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. In recent years, both under Salman and his predecessor Abdullah, the government has said it favours the greater participation of the kingdom’s women in education and employment. But a rigid dress code and the requirement of a male guardian’s permission for many activities has restricted their role. Earlier this year, Salman relaxed the male guardianship rules, making it easier for women to work, study and undergo medical treatment without the permission of their male ‘guardians’.

With inputs from Reuters

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