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Saturday, June 04, 2016

Saudi Arabia bought a huge stake in Uber. What does that mean for female drivers?

This week the Silicon Valley-based ride-sharing app Uber announced it was getting a huge new injection of funding. But the money wasn't coming from any of the standard investors from the U.S. tech world.

Instead, it was coming from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi state's Public Investment Fund (PIF) was putting $3.5 billion into the company, the largest investment in Uber to date. The move has raised eyebrows, however, due to one of the kingdom's most notorious domestic policies: Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women cannot legally drive.

While the act of driving for women is not specifically banned, various religious edicts in the country have meant women are restricted from applying for a driving license, effectively making the act of driving illegal for Saudi women. While some women in rural areas do drive without licenses anyway and some women with foreign driving licenses occasionally get behind the wheel (a legal gray area used largely in protest), for the most part women in Saudi Arabia simply don't drive. Polls suggest that support for the policy within the country is mixed.


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