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

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

A member of the council said a recommendation to grant the kingdoms female populace the right to obtain drivers 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 Arabias official press agency issued a statement at the time saying the issue was irrelevant to the discussions pertaining to the kingdoms 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 womens 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 Abdullahs 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 kingdoms 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 countrys 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 kingdoms Vision 2030 economic initiatives 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.


Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin