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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Women Drivers

By VOA News June 24, 2018

Saudi Arabia has lifted the world's last ban on women drivers.

The ban was lifted Sunday.

The move is a milestone for Saudi women who have had to rely on drivers, male relatives, taxis, or ride-hailing services to get around.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia's government began issuing licenses to women who already held driving licenses from other countries, including Britain, Lebanon and Canada. The women took a brief driving test before receiving their new licenses.

However, most women in the country do not yet have driver's licenses. Many women have not had a chance to take driving courses that have been only offered for a few months.

Bloomberg news agency said its interviews with Saudi women show the majority are conflicted about the new development, both being excited to drive but also wanting to respect their culture. Women say it will likely take some time for society to adapt to the change.

Car companies are also gearing up for the change with car sales expected to increase once the country's 10 million women are allowed to drive. Earlier this year, Ford sponsored a driving experience for women in the city of Jeddah.

Ride-hailing services Uber and Careem said they have begun recruiting female drivers.

While Saudi Arabia's government has been taking steps to legalize women drivers, police last month arrested several women who campaigned for the right to drive as well as campaigned against the country's male guardianship system. Rights groups say four women remain in custody, facing possible trial.

In Saudi Arabia, women are legally required to get approval from a male guardian for many decisions. These can include education, employment, marriage, travel and medical treatment.

In announcing the government's decision to lift the ban on female drivers last year, Prince Salman said women will not need approval from their guardians to get a driver's license and will be able to drive alone in the car. He said they will have permission to drive anywhere in the kingdom, including the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The prince said the decision marks a "huge step forward" and that "society is ready" for the change.

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