Saudi women will now be allowed to drive as of June 2018. The announcement, made on September 26 effectively ended the long lasting policy that clearly represented the oppression and injustice that women have suffered from throughout the years in the Middle East. Although the driving ban is a couple months from being lifted, and there may still be alterations to come, this could be a significant step forward to finally gaining the establishment of equal rights for women so in the MIddle East, as well as around the world.
Although we’d like to believe that this new freedom for women in conservative Saudi Arabia is solely for the purpose of women’s rights, that doesn’t seem to be the case. According to speculation, many believe that the lift on this ban was more for economic and political reforms that have come into plan under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Lifting this ban allows for more women to join the workforce, as transportation has been very limited within the kingdom. Many women were required to hire chauffeurs or spend money on several public transportation options, eliminating their incentive to work. By giving women the right to drive, it rids the need for third party endeavors and allows more women to get a job and successfully have the ability to pursue in it.
The lift on this ban is a good thing, but will it really set in motion a series of events that will lead to women’s freedom and rights in the middle east? Yes, this event has the potential to do so and has made a step forward to easing oppression; however, the incentive for lifting this ban reflects that it won’t be the case here. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not lift this ban solely because he believed that women should obtain more rights within the kingdom, but did so for beneficial gain as a leader. For his country, this ban allows their economy to increase and gives them positive publicity in the world, rather than the flood of negativity they’ve been receiving due to the recently publicized Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen.
Although this ban has been lifted, there are still many other bans and regulations set towards oppressing women that will not be lifted anytime soon. Such as, a women’s need for male permission before they are allowed to make major decisions, a strict and harsh dress code, limitation to the amount of time they are allowed to interact with men whom they are not related to, and many more.
It appears the driving reason behind allowing women to drive is economic. There are no signs that Saudi Arabia actually is diminishing this oppression against women for good. Overall, the Saudi government doesn’t actually care a great deal for women’s rights. If they really wanted women to finally have liberties within their country, they would do so willingly by lifting more bans and having incentives that are geared more to a caring attitude for women. Even most men in Saudi Arabia are very much against this lift and demand it be put back into their law.
Ultimately, yes, this new privilege for women in Saudi Arabia is beneficial and I’m ecstatic that they finally have this well needed and well deserved right. However, I have little faith that this will set in motion a series of other acts that rid the long lasting oppression experienced among women in Saudi Arabia. The other regulations that they withstand outweigh the one, good advantage that they just received. Women are still greatly confined to these societal norms of abuse that have gone on for centuries, with little to no motivation within their government and male population to lift more bans anytime soon. I hope for a better future among women within Saudi Arabia that give them more rights and eases the suppression they so greatly deserve; unfortunately, it won’t be for years to come.