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16 Dec, 2017 19:28

Saudi women get green light to drive trucks, motorbikes

Saudi women get green light to drive trucks, motorbikes

Female bikers and truckers may hit the streets of Riyadh next year, as the Saudi department of traffic confirms that women will be allowed to drive those vehicles following the passing of a royal decree in September.

“Yes, we will authorize women to drive motorcycles," the Saudi General Directorate of Traffic (GDT) said in a statement Friday, adding that driving laws will apply equally to men and women with no special measures to single out women drivers, such as license plates.

On September 26, King Salman signed a decree which allowed the issuing of driver’s licenses to women, appointing a high-level committee comprised of the ministers of interior, finance, labor and development to oversee the process. The new rules are due to come into effect on June 24, 2018, which would end a decades-long ban on women driving in the country, the only such ban still existing in the world. Shortly after the king’s decree, the Princess Nourah University in Riyadh announced it was opening an all-female driving school, the first in the country.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US said that women would not need permission from their male guardians – typically their father, husband or brother – to drive, and that women from other Gulf countries who have a license would also be allowed to get behind the wheel.

The decision was welcomed by activists and governments around the world. The new rules are part of a series of recent reforms in the kingdom spearheaded by the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose stated policy is to modernize the country and push it towards a more “moderate Islam.”

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia to open 1st female-only driver school after historic royal decree

In September, women were allowed into the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for the first time to witness the 87th anniversary celebrations of the country’s foundation, and stadiums around Saudi Arabia have been ordered to make preparations to allow women in the stands from early 2018. Cinemas, too, will be opened to the public, albeit still segregated by sex.

However, Saudi Arabia still lags behind the rest of the world in women’s rights, being particularly criticized for its strict male guardianship system.