A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia in 2013. Photo by Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

Saudi Arabia says it will start allowing women to drive

World

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia in 2013. Photo by Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that it was ending a long-established policy that prevented woman in the country to drive, according to state media.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that the state government will start issuing driver's licenses to women in June 2018. Before the decision to change its policy, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to bar women from driving.

"The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike," BBC quoted state media as saying.

The ban in Saudi Arabia, which is governed by Shariah law, has long been a part of conservative rules that limit how women in the country lived their daily lives. But under its "Vision 2030" plan, developed to ween the country off its dependence on oil, the government has been enacting reforms to their economic and social policies, including some on women.

Days before today's announcement, the government also allowed women into its national sports stadium for the first time.

When Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi Arabian native and activist, videotaped herself driving a car in 2011, the decision landed her in jail for nine days. No longer living in the country, she wrote a new book, "Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening," about the moment.

"Nothing will emancipate women in my country like driving, because it gives them a sense of independence. It gives them a sense of liberty and freedom," she told the NewsHour in August.

"And that breaks all the things they have been learned and brainwashed with, that we have to be obedient to these unjust laws, and we're weak, we cannot take decisions by our own. This will give independence to women," she added.

As NewsHour's own Judy Woodruff pointed out on Twitter that Saudi Arabia ranked 141 out of 144 countries in the world for gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum.

WATCH: Why this Saudi activist says driving is the ultimate female emancipation

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