A big change is coming to roadways across Saudi Arabia.
Government officials in the ultra-conservative kingdom have agreed to lift a longstanding ban on women drivers.
Saudi Arabia was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban.
The change was announced in a royal order reported by state media late Tuesday. It is the most dramatic step yet in a campaign by the king’s son to modernize the kingdom.
Political leaders around the world are applauding Saudi Arabia’s move to allow women to drive.
The secretary-general of the United Nations and US President Donald Trump are among those welcoming the decision, which takes effect next June.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says the move represents an “important step towards gender equality.”
The kingdom’s largely state-linked media is also responding positively to King Salman’s decision. An editorial in the English-language newspaper Arab News called it a case of “better late than never.”
Neither Islamic nor Saudi law explicitly forbids it, but women are not issued licences and are detained if they get behind the wheel.
One of Saudi Arabia’s most vocal women’s rights activists says she is really excited but that the change is the first step in a lot of rights women are waiting for.
Since the 1990s women’s rights activists have been pushing for the right to drive, saying it represents their larger struggle for equal rights under the law.
Saudi women still remain largely under the whim of male relatives due to guardianship laws.