Religious Law

Right to Vote Is On the Horizon for Women in Saudi Arabia, But Driving Ban Is Still Being Enforced


After months of campaigning by civil rights activists, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah made a surprise announcement yesterday that women would soon get the right to vote, albeit not for a few more years, according to Agence France-Presse and the National Post.

However, the right to drive remains elusive despite efforts by activists to push the conservative Islamic country to grant women that privilege, too—and that’s the right which, as a practical matter, offers women considerably more freedom than the right to vote, a number of observers say.

On the same day that the right to vote was announced, Najalaa Harrir was arrested for driving her car in Jeddah and is expected to be tried for the offense, reports the Associated Press. It wasn’t difficult for authorities to spot the infraction: She was shown doing so on a television show,

An article in the Driver’s Seat blog of the Wall Street Journal says there isn’t actually any secular law against women driving. However, religious law, which is enforced on the streets of the country’s major cities, is commonly interpreted to prohibit women from doing so.

The Telegraph details at length how Shariah is applied in daily life to restrict women from driving.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Saudi Moral Police to be Tried in Deaths”

ABAJournal.com: “Saudi Rape Victim Pardoned for Being Alone in Car”

Slate: “Why is King Abdullah willing to let Saudi women vote but not drive cars?”

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