Saudi female Shura members call for driving ban to be scrapped

Published:  11 Oct at 6 PM
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Women members of the influential Shura Council are calling on King Abdullah to allow women to drive, thus challenging a long-held tradition fully supported by the clerical establishment.

Shura Council members are appointed by the ruler, and constitute the closest body to a parliament in the kingdom. The council cannot make laws, but its recommendations to the King have often spurred reform in Saudi Arabia.

Traditionally, women are not allowed to drive in the kingdom, although no specific law actually prevents them from doing so. They are not, however, able to apply for driving licenses, and the issue has recently created controversy.

According to Hana al-Ahmadi, one of 30 women appointed as Shura members by King Abdullah last January, the subject of female drivers was spontaneously breached during a debate on the performance of the transport ministry. The burden for working women with families of not being able to drive and the unsuitability of public transport became a focus of the discussion.

The result was a proposal from another female member asking the council’s transportation committee to suggest that the Transport Ministry should prepare to allow women to drive. Many notes of support for the proposal were received from other members, and the issue is now with the transportation committee for consideration.

The proposal follows on from other careful moves initiated by King Abdullah and aimed at giving woman an increased say in their country’s development. The January decision to appoint 30 women to the previously all-male Shura Council was followed by an instruction to the government to improve womens’ job opportunities.
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