Saudi Arabia Denies Reports About Lifting Ban On Female Drivers

The response comes following an Associated Press report quoting an unnamed Shoura Council member.



Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council, an advisory body to the Gulf country’s monarch, has denied reports that its members recommended an easing of a ban on women driving, local media reported.

The clarification comes as an Associated Press(AP) report quoted an unnamed Shoura Council member as saying that the council had advised the government on removing the ban on female drivers with certain conditions.

As per the report, the advisory body recommended that just women over the age of 30 should be allowed to drive, requiring the permission of a male relative, usually a husband, father, son or a brother, to get behind the wheel.

It was also reported that women drivers would only be allowed on the roads between 7am to 8pm from Sunday to Wednesday and from noon to 8pm on Thursday and Friday.

Other conditions allegedly put forth by the Shoura Council included the requirement for women drivers to be devoid of make-up and dressed in conservative garb, with driving alone restricted to city limits, and an accompanying male relative required to drive outside.

The Council also reportedly recommended the formation of a female traffic department to facilitate female drivers if they encounter problems and to issue fines, although female officers would remain under the the supervision of religious agencies.

Strict penalties were considered against any kind of interaction between female drivers and other male drivers of traffic officers, AP said. Just speaking to a female driver could result in a month-long prison sentence and a fine, a source told the news agency.

However, Shoura Council spokesperson Mohammed Al-Muhanna told local media that the report was “false and misleading” as the council has not made any such decision.

The Kingdom’s male only rules for driving have long been a source of discontent among Saudi women and activists. In a protest last October many Saudi women took to the roads to defy the ban, later posting pictures of themselves driving online.

Despite a call from campaigners to repeat the protest this year, women activists in the Kingdom refrained from driving, following a warning from the Ministry of Interior.

Last month, the Ministry issued a statement saying that it would take strict action against any driver attempting to defy the ban and such efforts were “an opportunity for predators to undermine social cohesion.”