RIYADH: Saudi women will be allowed to drive from the age of 18, a government spokesman said on Thursday, partially allaying speculation they could still face tighter controls than men when finally allowed behind the wheel.
In a royal decree issued on Tuesday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud ordered an end by next year of the ban on women drivers, a tradition that has limited women’s mobility and been seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
The decree stipulated that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary sharia standards”, but did not elaborate, sparking speculation that restrictions might include a higher minimum age or limited hours of the day.
The king ordered a ministerial committee to report within 30 days on how to implement the new policy by June 24, 2018.
Asked on al Arabiya TV about the minimum age for Saudi women, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al Turki said: “Eighteen years is the age at which a person can obtain a driver’s licence and drive a car in the kingdom.”
United Nations human rights experts praised the ban’s removal as a major step towards women’s autonomy and independence, but urged the kingdom to do more to ensure gender equality.
“We now encourage the government to repeal all remaining discriminatory laws,” two experts who report to the UN Human Rights Council said in a joint statement.
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