Proof that not every bit of news coming out of the Middle East is horrible, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced that starting in June 2018 women will be allowed to drive. The royal decree represents a large step forward to modernity for the patriarchal, medieval society. However, the decision raises some questions, especially how Saudi men, who exercise lots of control over women, are going to take to this new freedom for females.

Why are the Saudis finally allowing women to drive?

The move to lift the ban on women driving is said to have been pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the current king.

Bin Salman is keen to change Saudi culture and economy to align it more with the western world. Saudi Arabia has been enriched with money garnered by its vast oil reserves, making it a participant in international affairs. Increasing its medieval culture based on Sharia law has become less sustainable. The treatment of women in the Kingdom is widely considered to be a human rights violation and has thus inhibited Saudi Arabia’s development as an international player.

Also, ride-sharing services such as Uber have already provided Saudi women with some level of mobility that they have hitherto lacked. Allowing women to drive, ironically, may be more aligned with Saudi patriarchal culture than having them get inside a car driven by a male with whom they are not related.

Some problems of adjustment are on the horizon

With the Saudi government gearing up to grant women driver’s licenses, the question arises of who will be eligible. Will a Saudi woman’s male guardian, father, husband, or even son be empowered to prohibit her from getting a license thus stopping her from driving?

Also, police officers are going to have to get training on how to interact with women drivers whom they pull over for whatever reason.

Wrecker drivers and garage mechanics will also have to learn to deal with the ladies. In Saudi culture, an interaction between men and women who are not related is significantly restricted. Also, will Saudi women have to take trusted male relatives with them even though they will be at the wheel?

Saudi clerics have made increasingly bizarre excuses as to why the ban on female drivers must continue.

They have claimed that it will lead to promiscuity, the collapse of the royal family, and even harm women’s ovaries. Nevertheless, those objections are being overridden.

To be sure, Saudi women have a long way to go before they achieve even a modicum of equality. However, they are about to get closer to that ideal.