Via NY Times:
Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it would allow women to drive, overturning a longstanding policy that has become a global symbol of the repression of women in the ultraconservative kingdom.
The change, which will not happen immediately, was announced on state television and in a simultaneous media event in Washington. It highlights the damage that the policy has done to the kingdom’s international reputation and its hopes for a public relations benefit from the reform.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is a Muslim monarchy ruled according to Shariah law. Saudi officials and clerics have provided numerous explanations for the ban over the years.
Some said that it was inappropriate in Saudi culture for women to drive, or that male drivers would not know how to handle women in cars next to them. Others argued that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family. One cleric claimed — with no evidence — that driving harmed women’s ovaries.