After years of international attention, Saudi Arabia has reversed its longstanding prohibition on women driving.
The New York Times reports, that this change is not, however, necessarily because the country’s leaders have suddenly awoken to the cause of gender equality:
Beyond the effects it could have on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, letting women drive could help the Saudi economy.
Low oil prices have limited the government jobs that many Saudis have long relied on, and the kingdom is trying to push more citizens, including women, into gainful employment. But some working Saudi women say hiring private drivers to get them to and from work eats up much of their pay, diminishing the incentive to work.
In recent years, many women have come to rely on ride-sharing apps like Uber and Careem to gain some freedom of movement.
The change doesn’t take effect until next June, however, and the Times notes that, “The decree said a high-level ministerial committee was being formed to study the issues that needed to be addressed for the change to take place.” For instance, new training for cops.
This follows many years of work by activists in Saudi Arabia to draw international attention to the restrictions, including driving despite the ban as an act of civil disobedience.