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Saudi Arabia Ends Ban on Women Driving

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Saudi Arabia will finally end its status as “the only country in the world that effectively prohibits women from driving,” NPR reports.

On Tuesday, September 27, Saudi Arabia announced in a royal decree that it will give women permission to drive, take driving lessons, and receive driver’s licenses starting in June 2018. However, the public will almost certainly resist this newly gained privilege for women.

“It’s a big step,” said Julie Walsh, junior.

Saudi Arabia is notorious for its highly patriarchal society. Guardianship rules legally require women to gain a male guardian’s authorization before doing many essential tasks, including attending school and obtaining a passport. The male guardian can be a male relative of any age, including a son.

According to the New York Times, men claim that women driving would lead to more infidelity and “male drivers would not know how to handle having women in cars next to them.” According to Fox News, others believe that driving could potentially harm women’s ovaries.

“That’s absurd. There should not be a problem because women driving should not be viewed any different from men driving,” said William Poland, junior.

“The men are scared because women are driving and gaining influence in society, but they should deal with it,” said Evan Xie, junior.

Despite conservatives’ claims that “such acts corrupt society and lead to sin,” Fox News reports, the Saudi Arabian government firmly stands behind its decision. Allowing women to drive not only offers women more freedom but also can potentially help the economy.

Currently, women rely on their male counterparts for transportation to and from work. In larger cities, some women utilize services such as Uber and Careem. However, the hassle needed for commuting and the cost of hiring drivers outweigh the benefits of working for many women.

The Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, created a plan to substantially strengthen the Saudi Arabian economy by 2030. An integral part of this plan consisted of allowing women to drive.

“In order to change women’s participation in the workforce, we need them to be able to drive to work. We need them to move forward; we need them to improve our economy,” said Khalid bin Salman, the ambassador to the United States.

Blacksburg High School has very positive reactions to this news.

“I’m really glad that women in Saudi Arabia can drive now. I think that all women in every country should be able to drive,” said an anonymous sophomore.

“I think it’s about time. It’s great that women are gaining some independence even though they’re still limited in most of their rights,” said Stephanie Mendoza, junior.

To finalize the decree, a governmental committee is changing some social norms, such as permitting public interaction between unrelated men and women, to create an environment supportive of women driving.

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Saudi Arabia Ends Ban on Women Driving