King Salman of Saudi Arabia took to state television today to announce that he will overturn the ban that kept women from driving in his conservative kingdom. Although the move isn’t immediate, the king said he hopes that the announcement will improve the country’s international reputation. Saudi officials also reportedly hope that allowing women to drive will have a beneficial impact on the country’s economy as more women will be able to enter the workplace.
A set of policies will need to be implemented by the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development before women are actually allowed on Saudi roads. It’s not yet known how long it will take to craft regulations that will grant women access to driver training and licensing.
Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving has long been held as an example of the country’s poor human rights record. Only recently, a Saudi cleric and government official called for the ban to remain in place, claiming that women “lacked the intellect” needed to drive. It was just one of the many absurd reasons given over the years to keep the ban in place.