Saudi Arabia issues first driving licences to women

Saudi Arabia has started issuing driving licences to women for the first time in decades, according to state media.

Saudi authorities said 10 women had been given licences at the General Department of Traffic in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday.

The women previously held licences from overseas, including the UK, Canada and Lebanon, and had to pass a brief driving test first.

Saudi Arabia is preparing to lift its ban on female drivers on 24 June, a move King Salman announced by royal decree in September.

Saudi Arabia has started issuing driving licences to women for the first time in decades, according to state media.

Saudi authorities said 10 women had been given licences at the General Department of Traffic in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday.

The women previously held licences from overseas, including the UK, Canada and Lebanon, and had to pass a brief driving test first.

The law is one of a number restricting women’s movement in the strict Islamic state.

While axing it is part of a liberalisation drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there are also economic reasons behind it.

Since oil was discovered in the Arabian desert in 1938, Saudi Arabia’s economy has relied on it.

The oil wealth funds heavy subsidies for Saudis on things like food without imposing income or corporate tax, although a 5% VAT was brought in earlier this year.

As the oil price has faltered in recent years, however, the crown prince knows he has to look elsewhere to make sure his country can survive when demand slows.

Part of his plan is to increase female workforce participation from 22% to 30% by 2030 and allowing them to drive will be a vital part of that.

Amid the campaign, however, some 17 people have been arrested for “undermining” the kingdom’s security.

SKY NEWS