The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Saudi Arabia:
Progress at a Turtle’s Pace

Oct 16, 2017

King Salman of Saudi Arabia decided to allow women to drive starting next June 2018. This is the result of almost 30 years of struggle, during which dozens of women were arrested and imprisoned for taking the wheel. "We won!" one of the activists said.

In Saudi Arabia, women may not leave the house if they are not accompanied by a man from their family. For the littlest outing, they need to get authorization from their “legal guardian”. In this macho society, gaining the legal right to drive is a small revolution. Now a woman will be able to apply for a driver's license on her own and then take driving lessons without having to bring someone to be her chaperone.

Along with the struggle by women, the reform also responds to economic difficulties. The fall in the price of oil, the country's single export, cuts deeply into government revenues at the same time that the war in Yemen and the conflict with Qatar stretch the budget.

As a result, some privileged Saudis living on government income can no longer pay the $1,000 per month it costs on average to have their wife driven around by taxi or private driver. As for the less wealthy, who must drive their wives around by themselves, they have to work more hours and don't have the extra time. By now close to one third of Saudi women already work, as cashiers, teachers, or care givers, if only in the presence of other women. The crisis at least accomplished this.

If reactionary pressure doesn't void the decision, within eight months we will see women driving in Saudi Arabia. It will be a step forward for women fighting for their rights.