Saudi Arabia has begun issuing its first driving licenses to women as it prepares to lift the world’s only ban on women driving later this month.
Saudi Arabia’s government issued a statement Monday saying it has started issuing licenses to women who already held driving licenses from other countries, including Britain, Lebanon and Canada. It said the women took a brief driving test before receiving their new licenses.
Saudi Arabia is planning to lift its decades-long ban on female drivers on June 24. The move is part of Prince Khaled bin Salman’s plan to modernize the conservative oil-rich state.
However, the government’s steps to lift the driving ban for women comes a week after Saudi Arabia arrested several women who campaigned for the right to drive as well as campaigned against the country’s male guardianship system. Rights groups say four women remain in custody, facing possible trial.
In Saudi Arabia, women are legally required to get approval from a male guardian for legal decisions. These can include education, employment, marriage, travel and medical treatment.
In announcing the government’s decision to lift the ban on female drivers last year, Prince Salman said women will not need approval from their guardians to get a driver’s license and will be able to drive alone in the car. He said they will have permission to drive anywhere in the kingdom, including the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The prince said the decision marks a “huge step forward” and that “society is ready” for the change.