Women in Saudi Arabia have long been second-class citizens simply because they were not born a male.
“Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death,” Hillel Neuer, director of U.N. Watch, told the Independent. "Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars.
Since its creation in 1987, the King Fahd International Stadium has been strictly off-limits to women, but on Saturday, for the first time, women were allowed inside to celebrate the country's founding.
“It is the first time I have come to the stadium and I feel like more of a Saudi citizen. Now I can go everywhere in my country,” 25-year-old Sultana told Reuters. “God willing, tomorrow women will be permitted bigger and better things like driving and travel.”
It may not have been “tomorrow” but on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced that women will be granted the right to drive. The New York Times explained that the country is a Muslim monarchy ruled by Islamic law and offered a few reasons why it's taken so long for women to be allowed behind the wheel:
- It's inappropriate.
- Male drivers can't handle women driving in cars next to them.
- Women driving will lead to promiscuity and the destruction of the Saudi family.
- Driving harms women's ovaries.
However, as it turns out, women can actually contribute to the economy, but not being able to drive proved to be problematic when trying to make that contribution.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman recognized the potential danger technology could pose to Saudi's economy, which, is primarily based on oil. His plan, Vision 2030, highlighted various ways the country could become independent from oil, and surprisingly enough, women seem to be a key part of that plan.
“Mohammed Bin Salman understands the fact that granting women their basic rights is an essential factor for the success of his vision 2030,” Salman Al-Ansari, president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee told CNN Money.
Mazen Al Sudairi, head of research at Al Rajhi Capital, added that easing the guardianship laws, which prohibit women from doing basic daily chores, such as opening a bank account, without her male guardian giving permission, will “effect positively the local economy.”
“It will enhance female productivity and participation that will be seen in term of investments and job creation,” he explained to CNN Money.
While the announcement is certainly a welcomed step in the right direction, it's unclear when Saudi Arabia will actually see a woman on the road. The New York Times noted that the country doesn't have any programs in place for women who want to learn to drive or obtain drivers licenses.
Plus, because women are so drastically different from men, The New York Times added that police will have to be trained to interact with women who are strangers because they rarely do in normal society.
According to The Guardian, a committee of senior officials will be created and decide how to implement the change, but has a 30-day deadline to offer recommendations.