Saudi Arabia hands women the keys

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However, the Saudi ambassador to the United States reportedly said that Saudi women with a driver's licence from any of the GCC states would be allowed to drive immediately in the country.

Till 26th of this month, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women could not drive; women driving was considered breaking the law.

Saudi Arabia will use the "preparatory period" until June to expand licensing facilities and develop the infrastructure to accommodate millions of new motorists, state media said.

The decision reflects not only a shift in thinking about human rights but a desire to develop modern skills among half its population, women, who are still largely kept out of the new, non-oil industries.

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Saudi Arabia's historic lifting of a ban on women driving will be a litmus test for its king-in-waiting, who has sought to sideline the kingdom's arch-conservatives as he accelerates reforms, analysts say. And nothing has represented those limits more than an official ban on women driving.

On Sept. 27, his government announced that the ban on female driving would be lifted, starting next year.

There was some opposition online, however, with some men criticising the decision on Twitter under the slogan "the people refuse women driving".

"I think our leadership understands our society is ready", Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said.

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A middle- to upper-class Saudi family typically has two vehicles, one driven by the man of the house and a second auto in which a full-time chauffeur transports his wife and children.

Unlike previous rulers, he has shown a willingness to tackle entrenched Saudi taboos, and is seen as catering to the aspirations of youth with an array of entertainment options and promoting more women in the workforce. Women already dominate men in numbers at universities. This means every country in the world now allows women the right to drive. Many working Saudi women spend much of their salaries on drivers or must be driven to work by male relatives.

According to the clerics, the majority of Council members saw no problem with women driving as long as there were guarantees and laws to maintain the respect and dignity of women, Efe reported. Still, lifting the driving ban on women could help the country's global reputation.

The decree also said a high-level ministerial committee was being formed to study other issues that needed to be addressed for the change to take place. Ms. Al-Sharif, for example, is a cybersecurity expert who once worked at the state-owned Saudi Aramco before she became fed up and moved to Australia.

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