The government of Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it will allow women to drive, The New York Times reported. The ultraconservative kingdom is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to legally operate motor vehicles. The country, which is the birthplace of Islam and adheres to a strict interpretation of Sharia law, has become a symbol of women’s repression for being the lone global holdout on allowing women to drive.
According to Al Aribiyah English, King Salman issued the historic decree for women to be allowed to obtain driver’s licenses. The change won’t be going into effect immediately, though. According to Bloomberg, women will be able to obtain a drivers license by June 2018.
In recent months, the idea for women finally getting the right to drive in the kingdom has been gaining momentum. Late last year, billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal declared “It’s time for women to drive.” However, his remarks, and others like his have often been met with a backlash. Many still hold on to the belief that women are unfit to operate a vehicle for a plethora of reasons. Just last week, a Saudi cleric was banned from preaching, Reuters reported, after saying that women shouldn’t drive because, after they go shopping, their brains shrink to a quarter of the size of a man’s brain. One way women have been able to get around in the kingdom is through the use of Uber, which has been hugely successful in Saudi Arabia. Some women have broken the driving ban, but they face arrest or have been forced to flee the country.
The announcement comes on the heels of several other advancements for women’s rights recently. In June, Saudi Arabia relaxed its infamous guardianship laws, allowing women to travel and study abroad without a man’s permission. And over the weekend, Saudi Arabia let women into its national stadium for the first time ever.
The U.S. lauded the move. At a press conference on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the change is a “great step in the right direction for this country.”
#SaudiArabia decision to allow women to drive is a great step in the right direction, & the US welcomes it.
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) September 26, 2017
Read the full story at The New York Times.