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Saudi Arabia slams brakes on women's driving ban review

The kingdom's ban on women behind the wheel will not be reviewed [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 November, 2016

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Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, which advises the cabinet, failed to get enough support to look into whether women should be granted the right to drive.
Saudi Arabia – the only country where women are not allowed to drive – has turned down a proposal to review the ban.

A male member of the kingdom's Shura Council, which advises the cabinet, suggested an enquiry, but the proposal failed to get the required 50 percent plus one support among the council's 150 members, who include 30 women.

The review would have looked at: "What are the difficulties if they start? What is required to allow them to drive?" one member told AFP.

Although the council has no legislative powers, it can make non-binding recommendations to the government.

Activists say women's driving is not technically illegal but that the ban is linked to tradition and custom. Some have challenged the ultra-conservative driving ban by getting behind the wheel and posting images of themselves online.

Unveiling Vision 2030 in April, the kingdom's plan for economic diversification and social change, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that society, not the government, will determine a change, stating: "So far the society is not persuaded – and it has negative influence – but we stress that it is up to the Saudi society."

However, despite women's ability to work being severely hindered by the driving ban, the Vision includes an increase in the proportion of female workforce participation from 23 to 28 percent by 2020.

Read also: It's time to talk breast cancer in Saudi Arabia 

Earlier this year, Saudi women protested the government's $3.5 billion investment in taxi service Uber, claiming the kingdom would be profiting directly from the driving ban.

Agencies contributed to this report

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