News

Saudi Arabia just issued its first driving licences to women

About time.

By: Erin Cook

For the first time in the country's history, women in Saudi Arabia will be legally able to drive from June 24.

Until now, women have been banned from driving their own vehicles. In the run up to the ban being lifted on June 24, the Saudi government have begun issuing drivers licenses to women for the first time ever.

Yes, ever.

According to the BBC, 10 women collected their new Saudi driving licences this week. These women already held licences from other countries, including the United States, UK, Lebanon and Canada. "Expectations are that next week an additional 2,000 women will join the ranks of licensed drivers in the kingdom," Saudi information ministry said in a statement.

Just in case you missed the memo, this moment has been a long time coming. Women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia have fought tooth and nail against the government for the right to drive their own vehicle — something that is considered a basic human right in Australia (and most of the world). Two weeks ago, seven women's rights activists — who had been publicly campaigning for Saudi women's right to drive — were arrested, BBC reports. The Human Rights Watch met with authorities but were not given a reason for the arrests.

In order to, you know, get from A to B, families have hired drivers to chauffer women and children around — an exercise that is very costly.

Lifting the ban is a step in the right direction; however, Saudi women are still limited in what they can do. While they will be allowed to drive from June 24, women must not associate with unrelated men. If they want to drive to work or to access healthcare, they will need to be accompanied by a male guardian or travel with written permission.