Stalled out: Saudi council denies change to women driving ban
Sorry ladies - Saudi Arabia's Shoura council says changing the country's restrictive ban is a non-starter.
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The Shoura Council on Saturday said it has not made any recommendation to lift the ban on female drivers in the Kingdom, contrary to a foreign press report.
An Associated Press report carried by international media outlets quoted an unnamed Shoura member as saying the king’s advisory council recommended that the government lift the ban, on condition that only women over 30 be allowed to drive
and they would need permission from a male relative — usually a husband or father, but lacking those, a brother or son.
“They would be allowed to drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday through Wednesday and noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday,” said the report.
“The conditions also require that a woman driver wear conservative dress and no make-up, the official said. Within cities, they can drive without a male relative in the car, but outside of cities, a male is required to be present,” it said.
It added that a “female traffic department” would have to be created to deal with female drivers if their cars broke down or they encountered other problems, and to issue fines.
It supposedly recommended the female traffic officers be under the supervision of the “religious agencies.”
“The council placed heavy restrictions on interactions between female drivers and male traffic officers or other male drivers, and stiff penalties for those who broke them. Merely speaking to a female driver, it said, was punishable by a one-month prison sentence and a fine,” the report further said.
The Shoura can only make recommendations to the Cabinet. Nonetheless, Shoura spokesman Mohammed Al-Muhanna said the report is false and misleading as the council has not made any such decision at all.
Commenters have suggested on social media that the report may have been based on a 2008 proposal to the Shoura Council, which had not made any progress.
The AP report itself wondered why the restrictions would be different on Thursday and Friday, as the Saudi weekend was changed by royal decree in 2013 to Friday and Saturday.
Women in the Kingdom had been granted plenty of rights and privileges since Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah became King in 2005, including his appointment of 30 women to the Shoura Council.
Driving by women on the Kingdom’s roads, however, had remained a contentious issue, with those against it citing various reasons, including the hazards of driving that women should not be exposed to.
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