The highly anticipated move comes as the autocratic Islamic regime faces ongoing criticism around the world for its record on women’s rights, which critics say is among the worst in the word.
“We hope this gesture of goodwill today will assure our critics that the Kingdom is open to reform on all issues and is sensitive to the needs of its female population,” a spokesperson for the Saudi government says.
Saudi Arabia has banned women from using forks since its formation in 1932 over fears that the utensil represented a threat to the kingdom’s conservative sexual mores.
"There is something very unclean about a woman putting four long hard things in her mouth at once," explains a leading Islamic cleric close to government policymakers.
"When a man sees a woman putting metal with such shapes into her sacred orifice, he cannot help but think the most unnatural thoughts. This measure exists to prevent sexual chaos between men and women."
However, Mario Santerelli, an Italian expatriate who runs an upscale Italian restaurant in Riyadh, has a different view.
“I can’t wait for the ban to be lifted,” he says. “It’s frustrating having to watch women eat pasta with a knife and spoon. Many of my customers are couples looking for a romantic night out. Being unable to properly eat your food kinda kills the mood.”
Once the ban on female fork use is lifted, women will still face a variety restrictions unique to the kingdom, where the status of women is arguably analogous to that of blacks in apartheid South Africa.
All women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a legal male guardian, are barred from mixing with the opposite sex in public, forced to use separate entrances to most buildings, and are most notoriously banned from driving automobiles.
Although there is a growing movement within the kingdom for greater freedom for women, this is the first concrete step the conservative ruling monarchy has made in that direction.
According to sources close to the government, the fork ban is expected to be lifted in a matter of weeks.