Saudi Arabia is considering proposals to allow women to drive, a member of the king’s advisory council said. The recommendations from the Shura Council to change the law would apply only to women over 30, who must be off the road by 8pm – and cannot wear make-up while driving. They must wear “conservative dress”.
Such a move would represent a major victory for activists after years of the absolute monarchy rejecting any review of the ban and punishing women caught driving. Earlier this year a woman reportedly received 150 lashes for driving. The kingdom is the only country in the world that forbids women from driving. Muslim clerics claim “licentiousness” will spread if women are allowed to drive.
Over the past year several groups of female activists have filmed themselves driving, and have posted pictures and videos on social media to draw attention to their campaign. The most recent campaign against the ban was last month. The council member said the recommendations were made in a secret, closed session of the Shura Council in the past month. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the recommendations have not been made public.
Under the recommendations, women would also 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 7am to 8pm, Saturday to Wednesday, and from noon to 8pm on Thursdays and Fridays. If they drive outside their home city, a male is required to be present in the car.
The council said a “female traffic department” would have to be created to help female drivers if their car broke down or they encountered other problems, and to issue fines. The 150-member Shura Council is appointed by the king to act as the closest thing to a parliament in the kingdom, though it has no legislative powers.
King Abdullah appointed women to it for the first time in 2013, and now it has 30 female members.
–The Daily Telegraph