First Published: 2017-09-25

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban
The Shura Council is an advisory body of 150 members, including 30 women.
Middle East Online

A woman takes part in a CrossFit class in Jeddah

Riyadh’s Consultative As­sembly, known as the Shura Council, is to re­view one of Saudi Ara­bia’s most polarising domestic issues: Its ban on female driving.

A member of the council said a recommendation to grant the king­dom’s female populace the right to obtain driver’s licences would be proposed for the advisory body to vote on within a month.

“A significant number of assem­bly members are concerned with the issue, with 20 members open­ly supporting the initiative,” an unidentified member of the Shura Council told the Okaz daily in Saudi Arabia.

A similar campaign was advanced by three female council members in 2013 but was rejected for discussion by the Shura Council.

Saudi Arabia’s official press agen­cy issued a statement at the time saying the issue was “irrelevant” to the discussions pertaining to the kingdom’s Transport Ministry and did not fall in its sphere of respon­sibilities. This was preceded by a petition signed by 3,000 Saudis urging the Shura Council to debate the issue.

The Shura Council is an advisory body of 150 members, including 30 women. Proposals can be discussed if more than 50% of members vote in favour. While the Shura Council cannot pass laws, it can forward legislation to be approved by the king.

The Saudi female driving ban is a contentious issue, especially as the kingdom pushes for reform and modernisation. Many citizens, including a significant number of women, support the ban.

The ban was unofficial for dec­ades but codified into law after 47 female Saudi activists drove in Ri­yadh in protest in November 1990. They were imprisoned for one day and had their passports confis­cated. An official statement was released stating the female drivers had contradicted “Islamic conduct” and that women were banned from driving in Saudi Arabia.

Since then there have been spo­radic acts of defiance but none as prominent as the 1990 protest.

The kingdom has made signifi­cant strides in women’s rights in recent years, beginning with initia­tives launched by the late King Ab­dullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and carried through and accentuated by the reigning monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

During King Abdullah’s reign, the first co-ed university was launched. The late monarch also appointed the first female cabinet member, Norah al-Faiz, who served as depu­ty minister of education.

In 2012, Saudi women partici­pated in the Olympics for the first time and restrictions on women in education and employment were eased. This prompted Christine La­garde of the International Monetary Fund to call the late king a “strong advocate for women.”

In 2015, Saudi women ran for the first time in the kingdom’s elections and 20 were elected to seats in the municipal council. In June, Saudi women celebrated a decree by King Salman easing aspects of the coun­try’s male guardianship system, including women being given inde­pendent access to government ser­vices, jobs, education and health care.

The following month it was de­cided that, starting in 2018, Saudi girls in public school would be per­mitted to have physical education lessons as part of the school cur­riculum.

The kingdom’s Vision 2030 eco­nomic initiative’s mission state­ment refers to women as a “great asset” that can help develop the kingdom and its economy, leading a significant part of the population to believe the ban on female driving would be lifted in the near future.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison