Friday, 17 November, 2017

Saudi activist who 'dared to drive' to return

Ian Allen     Head coach Theodore Whitmore during a Reggae Boyz training session earlier this year. 

          Gladstone Taylor     Ricketts Ian Allen Head coach Theodore Whitmore during a Reggae Boyz training session earlier this year. Gladstone Taylor Ricketts
Sammy Stanley | 29 September, 2017, 00:59

United Nations human rights experts praised the ban's removal as a major step towards women's autonomy and independence, but urged the kingdom to do more to ensure gender equality.

Under this system, women are deprived of the freedom to make essential decisions in their daily lives, including traveling overseas or getting married.

But most who used the negative hashtag were women mocking men opposed to them driving.

The policy could socially liberate women - heavily reliant on foreign drivers and ride-sharing apps - and also boost the economy at a time of low oil prices by increasing their participation in the workforce, analysts say.

Asked on al-Arabiya TV about the minimum age for Saudi women, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said: "Eighteen years is the age at which a person can obtain a driver's license and drive a auto in the kingdom". "They want to live how other people are living".

Saudi writer and journalist, Ghada Ghunaim said: "This will have a huge impact on Saudi Arabia's economy".

There was some opposition online, however, with some men criticising the decision on Twitter under the slogan "the people refuse women driving".

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On Saturday, women were welcomed into a sports stadium for the first time to celebrate the countrys national day and in June, the Ministry of Education declared female students would have access to physical education in the coming school year.

However, details of a bill allowing women to drive are still being discussed, and there have been concerns that women could face tighter controls than men.

The spokesperson added that there are already many women that drive for Uber in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan in MENA.

Three years ago, the country's top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said barring women from driving "was in the best interest of society" because it protected them from having to deal with an accident.

Samira Atallah, Senior Advisor for global women's rights organisation Equality Now, says "the royal decree allowing women to drive is long overdue".

According to reports, women can legally obtain drivers licence without asking a male guardian for permission under the new law.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, for his part, tweeted that ending the restrictions represented an "important step in the right direction". The royal decree late Tuesday comes into effect next summer, but it comes almost three decades after women began agitating for the right to drive.

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