Although the news this week of Saudi Arabia announcing it will lift a ban by June 2018 on women driving vehicles is being hailed as a historic moment, the repercussions for the country’s 1.4 million personal male chauffeurs employed to drive women around could be terrible.
Most of the men, who come from south Asia, may well now be finding themselves without a job and seeking other means of employment since King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz ordered the reform in a royal decree issued on Tuesday.
But women can rejoice after finally receiving their long-awaited rights to get behind the wheel and be in the driver’s seat and in control of a car. It will no doubt increase their independence and it is being seen as a positive step in the advancement and empowerment of women in the Kingdom which has been taking more and more steps in recent years towards modernisation and development. It was the only country in the world where women were banned from driving.
Women activists have been campaigning to be allowed to drive for years and the debates, particularly on social media, have often been heated. Meanwhile, the decision could well curb the popularity of apps such as Uber and Careem and it could also have a huge economic impact on the Saudi car market with sales potentially set to increase by 15 to 20 per cent annually.