In Saudi Arabia, driving as a woman is no longer a crime. This week, the kingdom officially began issuing driver’s licenses to 10 women. Prior to lifting the ban, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women did not have the right to drive. If caught at the steering wheel, a woman would be jailed or arrested. To comply with the law, families often hire private drivers to transport female relatives. Now as a result of the kingdom’s decision, Uber and Careem (a Dubai-based car service) is starting to hire its first set of female drivers, providing more opportunities for women to generate independent income.
Vogue Arabia is celebrating the historic moment by featuring Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah al-Saud on its June cover. Though in recent days, the publication has received a backlash for naming Princess Hayfa one of the “trailblazing women of Saudi Arabia.” There are still several women right’s and driving advocates being detained by security officials for “attempting to undermine the security and stability of the kingdom.”
Lifting the driving ban is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan to modernize Saudi Arabia and prepare the country for a post-oil future. The royal decree was first announced last year but goes into full effect this month. According to a government press statement, permits are first being issued to women who already have an “internationally recognized” driver’s license. The 10 women who were given permits carried licenses from the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Arab News shared a video via Twitter of the first woman to ever receive a license on Monday. Next week, the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh plans on issuing another 2000 licenses. The driving ban will be fully lifted on June 24th.