King Salman issued a landmark decree meaning women can take the wheel from next year.
Saudi Arabia’s status as the only county in the world where women cannot drive is about to come to an end.
King Salman on Tuesday issued a decree allowing women to secure driving licences, the Saudi Press Agency reports, with the order set to be in place by June 2018.
“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike,” said the SPA.
— منال مسعود الشريف (@manal_alsharif) September 26, 2017
Currently, women caught behind the wheel in the kingdom face arrest or being fined, a law that has been widely campaigned against in recent years.
The royal decree ordered the creation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days, with the law change set to “apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards”, the SPA added.
The move was widely celebrated on social media on Tuesday night, with the hashtag #SaudiWomenCanDrive trending on Twitter.
Activist Manal Al Sharif, who was jailed in 2011 for driving in public, welcomed the landmark ruling, saying “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again”.
Saudi’s ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled bin Salman, also heralded the milestone, calling it “a historic and big day” and “the right decision at the right time”, according to the BBC.
“I think our leadership understands our society is ready,” the ambassador told The Guardian, adding that women will not need a male guardian in the vehicle when they drive.
The US state department also welcomed the ruling as “a great step in the right direction”.
The reform comes as part of the kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030, a post-oil economy plan under which the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
(And now that women won’t need to hire male drivers to transport them to work, this goal looks even more feasible).
King Salman’s decree is just the latest in Saudi’s changing shift in women’s opportunities in recent times.
This year, more Saudi females have been appointed to top jobs, a royal directive allowed women to use certain government services without a male guardian’s consent, and recent approval was issued for the go-ahead of women’s gyms.
Women were also allowed into the capital’s national stadium for the first time ever this weekend, to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s National Day.