Women in Saudi Arabia got the right to drive, but they still can't do these things

Saudi women still aren't in the driver's seat of their own lives, activists say.

— -- The announcement that Saudi Arabia will finally allow women to drive has been hailed a watershed moment for gender equality, but the kingdom still has many laws in place that restrict the rights of women, activists say.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world that forbids women from getting behind the wheel, announced that women will be allowed to obtain drivers' licenses for the first time in June 2018.

In the meantime, a newly-formed committee will develop a plan on how to implement the royal decree in accordance with religious and regulatory standards, presenting its recommendations within 30 days.

"This is a historic big day in our kingdom," Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, said during a press conference Tuesday at the Saudi embassy in Washington.

Ambassador bin Salman confirmed women will be allowed to apply for a license, take driving lessons and drive any vehicle without needing legal permission from their male guardians. The choice to do so will be solely up to women, bin Salman said, but he acknowledged "there might be social issues."

Reacting to the news, U.S. Department of State Spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at a press briefing, "It's a great step in the right direction for that country."

But Saudi Arabia's longstanding ban on women drivers is just one of a number of rules that restrict nearly every aspect of daily life for the ultra-conservative nation's female population. While the new decree marks a breakthrough, Saudi women are still not in the driver's seat when it comes to making many key decisions in their own lives, largely because of the country's male guardianship system, a recent report by Human Rights Watch found.

Activists say the kingdom's guardianship policies effectively render adult women legal minors because they must obtain a male guardian's consent for even the most mundane activities. A woman's father, husband, brother or son constitute a guardian.

Here are 13 things -- among others -- women in Saudi Arabia cannot do freely due to the country's strict laws and guardianship policies.



Moreover, men may petition the courts to forcibly divorce a female relative from her husband if they deem the marriage "unfit," the report found.

Have custody of children

Get a passport


Leave jail

In some cases, the guardian refuses.

"There is this feeling that she brought shame upon her family and the honor of her family has been damaged and therefore the guardian won't come and free her," Benchemsi told ABC News.

Open a bank account

Get a job

Dress how they want

Interact freely with men

Receive equal inheritance

Get a fair trial

Seek medical treatment