Saudi women face detention in care centres for traffic violations

The kingdom is preparing to lift its female driving ban on June 24



Saudi women who have committed traffic offences punishable by detention will be held at female care centres, according to a cabinet decision this week.

The announcement follows a recommendation from the kingdom’s Traffic Department as it prepares to lift a female driving ban on June 24.

Read: Saudi women to be allowed to drive trucks, motorbikes

Those aged below the age of 30 will only be released from the homes by a judge’s order, according to local reports.

Meanwhile, those aged above 30 can leave after serving their jail term.

The care homes come under the Ministry of Labour and Development. There are currently seven across the kingdom and a further five planned with the eventual goal of covering every province in the kingdom, Saudi Gazette reported.

Each building features administrative offices, a school, male area, activities area, reception hall and cafeteria and serves as a detention centre for women involved in criminal cases.

The kingdom issued its first driving licences to women this week. The recipients had obtained licences abroad and exchanged them for Saudi documentation.

Read: Saudi starts issuing driving licences to women

Outside of detention in care homes, it is clear women that choose to drive in the kingdom will face different treatment to men in other areas.

Reports in recent months have suggested female learner drivers will face paying up to six times more for lessons than their male counterparts.

Read: Saudi women to pay six times more than men for driving lessons

They will also face additional restrictions when working as chauffeurs ranging from being unable to serve male-only groups to breaking the law if they accept a trip with a male or child is sat in the front seat.

Read: Saudi women seeking driver jobs to face tough restrictions

PwC forecast in a report earlier this year that it expected just 20 per cent of women in Saudi to drive by 2020, despite previous surveys suggesting more than four fifths wanted to get behind the wheel.

A harassment law approved by the cabinet last week also appears intended to protect women as they prepare to take to the roads.

Read: Saudi Cabinet approves law criminalising harassment

Anyone convicted under the new law faces up to five years in a jail and a fine of SAR300,000 ($80,000).

Read: PwC says just a fifth of women in Saudi will drive by 2020