An advisory council to the Saudi king has recommended that the government allow women over the age of 30 to drive for part of the day., in a reversal of a long-standing refusal of authorities in the ultra-conserviate kingdom to consider any modificaiton to its strict laws around the rights of female citizens.
The council also recommended however, that women should not be allowed to wear makeup while driving, Associated Press, or AP, reported, citing a council member.
The 150-member Shura Council’s recommendation will not necessarily to be accepted by the government, but the move is a turnaround after years of complete refusal by authorities to consider any review of the ban on women driving.
The recommendation, which was made secretly, stated that only the women over 30 years of age would be allowed to drive, and only between the 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Saturday to Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, they would be allowed to drive from noon to 8 p.m., AP reported. According to a decree signed in 2013, the weekends in the country were changed to Friday and Saturday, but it was not clear why the restrictions were different on Thursday and Friday.
The women would also need to get permission from a male family member -- a father or a husband, but not a brother or son -- to drive, AP reported, citing a council member. The women should be conservatively dressed and a male relative would need to accompany them, if they plan to drive outside the city.
The council also suggested that a "female traffic department" be created, under the supervision of the "religious agencies," to help women if they face any problems on the roads or if their cars broke down. The female traffic department would also fine women who broke the country's law by interacting with male traffic officers or drivers, AP reported.
The ban on Saudi women driving is a part of the strict Islamic law known derived from the conservative Wahhabi strand of Islam, which calls for the genders to be strictly segregated. Women in the country need to get permission from a male relative to travel, get married, enroll in higher education or undergo certain surgical procedures.
The country has seen protests in small numbers from women, but the government has said that allowing women to drive would promote “licentiousness.” The first major protest happened in 1990, when nearly 50 women drove cars in protest. They were jailed and lost their jobs, while the police confiscated their passports. The government also banned the women’s male relatives from travelling for six months.
In 2011, about 40 women got behind the wheel, while a woman was arrested and sentenced to 10 lashes for posting a video of her driving a car. The king had later overturned the penalty, AP reported.