Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz recently revealed that there was a chance Saudi women might gain the right to drive in the kingdom in the future.
He added that the move may take some time, and that men will ultimately make the decision whether women will head to the highways or not in Saudi Arabia.
"When fathers, husbands and brothers ask us for women to drive we will look into it, though if they ask us the opposite we can't force them (to let women drive)," Sultan said, according to SPA.
Driving rights for women have been a main demand of reformers in Saudi Arabia. “Women in Saudi Arabia should and must drive,” said Dr. Amira Kashgary, a professor of linguistics at the College of Education at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. The ban has “economic and social implications for working women. It is now a necessity to drive and lifting the so-called ban on driving does not mean that all women will jump on the roads, let the authorities be selective in terms of giving permission. More than 70 percent of Saudi women drive themselves when they go abroad.”
Some religious clerics fear that if women were allowed to drive, they may take their freedoms further and mingle with men outside of their families, an act which is forbidden in the kingdom, which follows the conservative Wahhabi sect of Islam.
Despite the ban, cases of driving women in Saudi Arabia, mainly in remote areas, have been reported in the press. This unfortunately was due to the fact that the women drivers were involved in accidents.
King Abdullah has stressed the need to advance the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, saying that such a move is crucial to the economic development of the kingdom.
He added that any future advancement would conform to the regulations of Islam.
Currently, women are only permitted to vote in major elections for half the members of municipal councils from February to April 2005; they are also forbidden from running for office.
Some officials, however, have said women would be allowed to take part in future polls.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )