Will Saudi women drive?
Saudi Arabia's Shura Council agreed to reconsider the driving ban on women, and this time it seems as though the only country in the world with such a ban in place is on its way to removing it. According to British newspaper The Times, the last time the council discussed this issue, the prohibition remained intact.
Seven years ago Saudi Arabia's Shura Council, the country's formal advisory body, was men-only.
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Last January, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud appointed no less than 30 women to the council, a historical move allowing women an entry pass into the legislative authority for the first time ever.
It appears as though the chances for change in Saudi Arabia are much higher than they were in 2006. The council's willingness to weigh the option of annulling the prohibition stems mainly from a recently-submitted petition.
Saudi women looking for gender equality (Photo: Reuters)
The petition includes over 3,500 signatures and demands gender equality. The petition's organizer, Saudi Arabian author Abdullah al-Alami, is optimistic. "Women in parliament is a huge change. Before they were in parliament, only men discussed the issue and missed the mark," he said.
Moreover, in the past two years social activists decided to fight the ban. In June 2011, some 100 women took to the streets calling for equality. Since then, smaller groups have done the same.
The date has not yet been determined for the deliberation that will certainly reignite the debate on gender equality in the country. In recent years, King Abdullah has been improving the treatment of women and gradually reducing the limitations on employment for women and allowing them to acquire higher education.
Nevertheless, it seems that the apparent decision will be received indignantly by Saudi Arabia's conservative majority, which considers enabling women to drive as an act of disloyalty to Islam and as "Westernization."